Understanding consent

Published: October 29, 2017
SHARES
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The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. She blogs at www.aishasarwari.wordpress.com. She can be followed on Twitter @AishaFsarwari

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. She blogs at www.aishasarwari.wordpress.com. She can be followed on Twitter @AishaFsarwari

I have two reasons to believe Aga Khan University Hospital is our nation’s foremost hospital in terms of quality of service and standards. First reason being that my husband got his brain tumour removed last week from there and is on his way to recovery. The second is that a doctor in the emergency room was fired by AKUH because his conduct was unbecoming of a doctor that treats vulnerable women coming to him in dire times of need.

Many have claimed that the decision to fire the doctor was one that reeks of classism and elitism because the woman he harassed was the sister of our country’s two-time Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

The only thing this reeks of is misogyny and sexism. When Sharmeen’s sister walked into the emergency of the hospital, she expected protection, from both her ailment and from the sense of insecurity of being both a patient and a woman. This doctor treating Sharmeen’s sister used her medical record to look her up and send her a Facebook friend request.

This falls squarely in the category of harassment because if anyone should have sent a request, it ought to be the one in the weaker power equation, in this case, the patient. It is also harassment because it was clearly unsolicited. It is also harassment because it is creepy. In the digital ethics world it is like showing at someone’s house without a prior invitation and knocking at the door. Which is legally okay, but only if someone has allowed you onto their front porch in the first place.

Sharmeen was well within her rights to report this and call it out — to the hospital administration and to the Twittersphere. She did this for her sister, for the sisterhood. So the doctor cannot make other women uncomfortable.

This is the reason why much of our women are not allowed by the honour code and their male guardians to get treatment because most doctors are male. This doctor has made a disservice to his profession. In places like Fata, women die at home during childbirth precisely because sexual attention tends to become the fault of the victim when the story is rewritten.

What saddens me profoundly is the urbanised misogyny of our educated males who have commented on this issue as if their fraternity is and has always reminded untarnished, except for this one unwarranted accusation by Sharmeen. Ali Moeen Nawazish, our star student, has called Sharmeen out for destroying the life of a doctor who fends for his family. Humanising the doctor and in the process deliberately dehumanising the anguish Sharmeen’s sister has felt. Other men, also stars at one thing or the other, leap to this doctor’s defence, and for good reason too, they’ve all done it. Pushed their luck to see if a girl will bite, and if she won’t at least they’d get a kick.

This entire problem has happened because we do not discuss the idea of consent. Imagine the ghastliness of its absence in our villages and in our rural edges of civilisation?

Girl walks into a shop to buy soap and her consent is violated. Women go to educational institutions after battling their families for individual rights and they get hit on by their male instructors. Young girls go to vocational school and get groped on the bus by conductors. Everywhere power is being used for women to be violated and reminded of their puny status. What is unforgiveable is when someone does it after they know it’s wrong. When they have the cultural understanding on the impropriety.

Every time the rape culture blames women for asking for it, how very unfortunate that when a man crosses the line, he’s not asking for it, he is the victim.

If that story works for you, fine. It’s not the truth by any measure. That is why AKUH is a premier institution. They understand that an ethical boundary was crossed.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Saif Jiskani
    Oct 29, 2017 - 1:17PM

    Punishment without a proper probe is injustice- however there shouldn’t be a compromise on professional ethics and values at any cost; and the established professional organisations do follow best practices! Recommend

  • Hamid
    Oct 30, 2017 - 5:12AM

    Everything has been blown out of proportion by people on both sides of the aisle. We have regrettably become a populace that has lost its sense of ratio and proportion and have almost become delusional if not schizophrenic! Recommend

  • Tuk
    Oct 30, 2017 - 6:10AM

    This was no harrasment! Unprofessional, maybe, but please dont devalue real harrasment. These ladies would have gladly accepted the friend request from Harvey Weinstein before his recent troubles.Recommend

  • DigitalEthics
    Oct 30, 2017 - 10:05AM

    So, I get a lot of “unsolicited” friend requests on facebook and linkedin. Should I report them to police.Recommend

  • Shahzad
    Nov 2, 2017 - 5:29PM

    Hello Madum

    I think first read the below mention law that available in internet.

    Cyber stalking: Up to 3 Years in Jail or Up to Rs. 1 Million in Fine or both
    If you try to get into a relation with someone online through internet website, email, SMS, phone or any communication tool despite there is disinterest from the other party then you can be jailed for three years or imposed a fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both.

    Examples:

    You repeatedly call someone, despite the other party asks you to not to
    You send emails with no interest shown by the other party
    You do something in a manner that other party is harassed out of your actions
    If you call, chat with someone and other party has no issues with that then its all cool, nothing to worry about.Recommend

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