Is Magdalene the child of a lesser God?

I have been jolted into writing this painful blog by a social activist's answer to my query about why his organisation has not protested about her ordeal. He replied, "We can't speak up for everyone..."

Maheen Usmani July 18, 2010
Let me confess that I have been jolted into writing this painful blog on Magdalene by a committed social activist's answer to my query about why his organisation has not protested about her ordeal. He replied, "We can't speak up for everyone..."

What was Magdalene's crime? All she tried to do was better her life by enrolling in a nursing school in Karachi. She may not have become Florence Nightingale, but she sure had stars in her eyes and the prayers of her poverty stricken family in Punjab. But it was not to be. The petite young woman caught the fancy of the politically powerful Dr Jabbar Memon. Magdalene complained to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre's (JPMC) administration that Memon and his friends used to harrass her during work, but no one took any action. She was left at the mercy of the sleazy Memon who was bent on encircling and trapping his prey.

On Tuesday 13th July, Dr Saleem who lived in the JPMC Doctor's Colony, heard his children screaming in panic because they had seen a woman falling from the balcony. "I saw her lying face down, bleeding from her head." He said her clothes were torn and the Medico Legal Officer Jabbar Memon looking down from his balcony. He then tried to escape from the crime, but fell heavily and was injured. In Dr Jabbar's flat the police found broken pieces of glass in the room, "which suggests that there was some resistance before the incident."

Sindh Health Department’s chemical examination laboratory confirmed the rape after inspecting the samples collected from the victim. Preliminary medical reports also suggest that Magdalene might have been subjected to gang rape by six men. After the MLO’s report was prepared, the police added the relevant charges to the FIR against Dr Abdul Jabbar Memon, but did not present him in court on Thursday.

It seemed fairly obvious where the sympathies of this Investigating Officer lie. On Thursday, he requested the judicial magistrate that the suspected rapist be remanded in police custody for 14 days without him being produced in court. The IO said that the suspect, who was arrested on July 14, could not be brought to the court because of his poor health. However, the judicial magistrate turned down the IO’s request and directed him to produce the suspected rapist in court at the earliest.

While Magdalene is struggling for her life at the intensive care unit at Jinnah Hospital, Dr Memon has been allowed by the JPMC administration to get himself transferred to a private hospital. Dr Seemin Jamali, Chief of the JPMC's Emergency Department, has acknowledged that the MLO is "highly influential."

"We complained to the hospital administration many times about the MLO who had illegally occupied the room," claimed Dr Sangeeta, a resident of the colony. "When it was known that the MLO had forcibly occupied the residence, and did not have a good reputation, why was he allowed to stay there?"

Dr Jamali admits that the corrupt MLO had been transferred from JPMC to other public-sector hospitals at least four times, but the politically-backed officer got himself posted to the hospital again every time. This time the provincial government had posted him at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, but he refused to vacate his allotted residence in the hostel and was illegally residing there for last two weeks.

"JPMC had written a letter to the MLO to vacate the hospital's residence, but he paid no heed to the warning and occupied the government property, " said Dr Jamali. According to reports, the MLO was suspended from his post on disciplinary grounds 15 days prior to the incident. The nurses, paramedical staff and students at Jinnah Hospital, who have been on strike for three days, have said their protests will continue until the MLO is barred from practice and other doctors, who are living illegally in the doctors’ colony, are removed.

The Jinnah hospital authorities issued notice on Friday directing the evacuation of the illegally occupied flats in doctors’ colony within 24 hours. The notification also called for a background check on the rest of the occupants. Around nine flats have been illegally occupied, out of which six residents are doctors and three flats are inhabited by families. The provincial health ministry has also called for a complete background check on the doctors who were allotted flats in the residential colony. Some doctors and staff members have actually rented out their flats.

The ubiquitous Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister, Sharmila Farooqui, visited Magdalene at the JPMC Intensive Care Unit and announced that a committee would be formed which will investigate all such issues in the future. It will include all the concerned members of the hospital and will include two members from the nursing department as well.

Nursing students are not in the mood to be mollified by such cosmetic measures and allege that this case is not a one-off, and "doctors’ blackmail" was prevalent in certain parts of the hospital, with Ward 24 notorious for such harassment. The accused doctor has had the audacity to deny any involvement in the incident and blames the nurse for "conspiring against him."

Law on paper

Of what use is this much trumpeted about and feted law against sexual harassment, the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill 2010, when complaints from women about inappropriate conduct in offices are swept under the carpet time and again?

Does the law not define harassment as "any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other verbal and written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with the work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or is made condition for employment"? Why did the JPMC administration turn a deaf ear to Magdalene's complaints of harrassment?

During this case, there has been a deafening silence from womens' rights activists, NGOs, female Parliamentarians, civil society et al who otherwise vent their fury ad nauseum 24/7. Is it because Magdalene is a Christian nurse and has no "connections"? What kind of a society have we become that we are so oblivious to this young girl's tragedy? Look at the blood on her pillow, and the way she is writhing in agony in these pictures. Whether she jumped or was pushed from that balcony, this 22 year old has been through hell and we just don't seem to care enough to make even a token protest.

This case needs to be investigated thoroughly and the accused should be put behind bars forever, notwithstanding his political clout.
WRITTEN BY:
Maheen Usmani A freelance writer who has covered subjects ranging from socio-political issues to women's rights to counter terrorism, sports, travel, culture and music. Maheen tweets @MaheenUsmani (https://twitter.com/MaheenUsmani)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (33)

shahid | 10 years ago | Reply Well written once again Maheen....Appears justice is happening slowly.
sobia zia | 10 years ago | Reply we call nurses..Sister. Is this how a Muslim society treats sisters ........this person should get slashes in front of Public and should be hanged no matter what. See how comfortable & relaxed that man is after all this, no guilt no tension. Any politician who is supporting him should get same punishment .
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