The victims of workplace harassment can now electronically lodge complaints at the Federal Ombudsperson Secretariat’s website. This is good news for many and is a much-needed step taken by the government in its attempts to provide a platform for all working women to raise their voices against sexual harassment. But the major challenge remains in creating awareness about this new opportunity and give women courage to raise their voices against the evils of our society — especially those that make them feel uncomfortable in their working environment.
Though it is good to see a lot of women working in many public and private organisations, it is difficult to tell how many of them have become victims of sexual harassment at their workplace. How many of them are forced to hide this for the sake of continuing their professional life or to avoid the fingers that would be pointed at them for no fault of their own.
Recently, I met a young girl who had just completed her postgraduation and had found a job in a reputable organisation. Initially, she was very happy at finding a job and was extremely passionate about starting her professional career, but two weeks into the job, she seemed very scared and depressed. Upon asking, she told me that her boss keeps asking her to sit in his room for hours at end. “He calls me to his room without any reason and when I go there, he switches on the television and plays Western music which makes me feel uncomfortable and asks me to sit near him so that he can dictate things to me,” she said and started crying.
She said that when she refused to go to his room, he started sending her vulgar messages and threatened to fire her if his orders weren’t obeyed. “I do not want to lose the job and don’t have the courage to share this with anyone; even with my family, as they will then not allow me to work,” she said.
Though this is the story of one girl, there are many women out there who are suffering the same way but lack the courage to raise their voices. This is because they lack protection from society and are scared that if they share their troubles with anyone, they will be blamed instead of being helped. In this regard, the steps taken by the government should indeed be commended. However, it remains to be seen how well the officials in charge will be able to implement the reforms discussed.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2013.
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