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April 13, 2019

‘Victim-blaming must stop in harassment cases’


April 13, 2019

While the #MeToo Movement continues to increase awareness of harassment and misconduct all over the world, it is also making its way to Pakistan but change in our society is, however, still evolving.

This and other observations were made during a seminar, titled ‘Credibility and Implementation Risk of #MeToo Movement in Pakistan’, which was organised under the Lub Kushai project of the Global Neighbourhood for Media Innovation (GNMI) at the Marriott Hotel on Friday.

GNMI Founding President Najia Ashar said the Lub Kushai project was established as an innovative forum for resource-sharing and an open dialogue on gender sensitive reporting, challenges and opportunities, with the help of journalists, opinion leaders and recognised professionals.

She said the aim was to amplify the women’s voices into the mainstream media by providing them with a space to connect with the civil society because the movement had become pale in our society.

Ashar said not only women but men were also a target of gender inequality as there had been cases of harassment with men. It was high time we raised our voices against any such cases, she added. Tasneem Ahmer, executive director of UKs Research Centre, said that we assume that it must be the victim’s actions, words or dress that provoked harassment; we need to stop this blame game.

“Victim-blaming is one of the major reasons that most of our women do not report their assault cases, and those women who want to speak out are being stopped by their families. It is extremely important to break the wall of silence to eliminate gender disparity.”

She said we must support and stand by the sufferer every time, and not only when any case gets public attention and media coverage. Member Provincial Assembly Nusrat Sahar Abbasi started off by saying that she was harassed in the Sindh Assembly, and when she stood up for justice her family was scared and they stopped her from getting involved in this fight for her rights.

“I am a victim of harassment myself and, not one time, it happened many times but I did not stay quiet. I think nobody should stay quiet.” She said that there were harassment and victim protection bills, but unfortunately we were not aware of the bills and laws. We need awareness programmes to educate our women to fight for their rights, she added.

Sahira Kazmi, television actor, director and producer, said it was the responsibility of parents to teach their children that men and women were all equal, and one woman should support another woman who stood up and raised her voice.

She said the problem was that gender inequality and harassment were, to some extent, common in women, who belonged to less privileged classes as compared with women who were strong and privileged.

“One thing that worries me the most about Pakistani dramas is that they show woman as a victim and, in many cases, they show the girl’s father being apologetic by making him say ‘Larki ka Baap houn na’. When women watch these dramas, they start assuming that they are maybe less worthy than men.”

Senior Journalist Uzma Al-Karim said not all harassment was sexual in nature, unwanted attention and any unwelcomed thing could be harassment. Any women who shared stories of harassment that happened some years ago were asked why they did not speak about it then; they were being accused of attention-seeking, she said.

“I have seen people saying that a compliment or a good morning text cannot be harassment, but anything that is unwelcomed falls under the category of harassment. Every girl should be taught by her parents to give a shut-up call to harassers even before reporting the case.”

The GNMI president said that they had started this project to educate both men and women to respect each other, but it was not possible by arranging seminars only as we were in immediate need of awareness programmes to be arranged in universities and schools.

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