Harassment, something that can be as trivial as somebody’s long gaze or an unwanted touch, is basically a product of our society that is soaring due to our negligence and heedless demeanor towards the relative issue.
A civic society movement, I Am Karachi invited speakers on Friday at IBA to talk on the taboo with an aim to spread awareness and by creating safe forums for people to discuss ways on tackling the matter.
The first speaker of the evening was Shehla Qureshi who was also the first woman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Pakistan Railways Police. She began with explaining the meaning of harassment, in the eyes of law and the literal meaning, both. She continued on talking about the double standards and discrimination Pakistanis are fond of practicing when it comes to gender. “Ironically, victims feel ashamed of themselves when it comes to reporting the acts of harassment to police as they show less faith in law and believe in discussing the taboo behind closed doors”, the SP stated.
She mentioned about the Police Complain Centers established for the purpose to assist the victim, through legal channel and procedures. These complain centers provide aid in conducting quick investigation process leading to instant results. With very few people knowing about these working complain cells, Shehla stressed on how platforms like these would help in spreading awareness.
Treading ahead, she also criticized the former governments and their gender biased frame work of law for not permitting women to work in certain departments and by keeping positions exclusively for men. In 2006, with Musharraf’s regime comes the first Women Harassment Act that made things better.
Communication is the key
Next speaker of the event was Shahbaz Islam who is a trainer and head of human resource and corporate communication at Sui Southern Gas Company. He explained on how the issue can be resolved by communicating it to right person in authority through appropriate channel.
He went on adding that harassment is not reported out of fear of losing opportunities in the workspace and being labeled. The effects can be so overwhelming that it stops women from reporting such incidents.
“Harassment is all about the oppressor and its sub-ordinate. Situations can completely change if the sub-ordinate picks up the audacity to leave the chair of a victim and grabs a new chair of “fighter”, a fighter who is brave enough to report what’s wrong”, Shahbaz concluded.
Demarcation between right and wrong
To throw light on harassment in various fields like media, Hina Bayat Khan and Maria Wasti who are the known faces of our media industry were welcomed on the panel to add on the discussion. Hina Bayat Khan picked a different notion about the issue. She spoke about how most people think that harassment is just a way of showing their admiration and praise for somebody. Here, what counts is the way of making somebody uncomfortable with how things are said”, added Hina.
However, Maria Wasti showed her concern on how most of the times the victim is oblivious towards harassment as it is thought to be a normal thing. Exposure to the real world matters here. So, that the victim knows on, how and what to report about the culprit.
“I was very blessed as a child as my mother made it very clear to me that nobody has the right to touch me against my will, and if such an event did happen, it must immediately be reported”, shared Hina.
Moreover, the discussion was not a monologue and speakers were open to questions which encouraged people to communicate and discuss their problems. Then only our society would be safe for all!