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.