Harassment is a crime

Published: December 15, 2013
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In Pakistan, sexual harassment is often portrayed as something of a joke and described as ‘eve teasing’. DESIGN: MUHAMMAD SUHAIB / SAMRA AAMIR

In Pakistan, sexual harassment is often portrayed as something of a joke and described as ‘eve teasing’. DESIGN: MUHAMMAD SUHAIB / SAMRA AAMIR

There is no nation on earth that has been able to eliminate the sexual harassment of women, but most recognise it as a significant social problem and try to do something about it by way of punitive legislation and raising public awareness as to its inappropriateness. In Pakistan, sexual harassment is often portrayed as something of a joke and described as ‘eve teasing’ — it is far from a joke and is often profoundly damaging to the young women who are on the receiving end.

Workplace harassment is an area of particular concern, the more so as more women are entering the workplace as a result of the need for an extra earning hand and an increased number of women choose to have a career. There is legislation but it remains un-implemented. The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010 is supposed to provide a measure of both protection and legal recourse, but women are unwilling to report instances of harassment because of the social stigma attached to so doing.

Gender-based violence — which is what sexual harassment is — is a serious human rights crime and it is time that Pakistan woke up to that reality. Some banks and large international corporations have internal protocols in place to take up the cases of women who have been harassed at work, but for the most part, women either suffer in silence or walk away from the job. Many countries teach their schoolchildren about how to respond to sexual harassment and there is no reason why schools in Pakistan should not teach a similar awareness. Indeed, it may now be the time for the government to add cyber crime to the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010, as with an exploding online population, women are exposed to yet another opportunity for men to abuse them.

Women are becoming more, not less, vulnerable to abuse and an attitudinal change is decades overdue. Sexual harassment is a crime and it is time to start prosecuting it.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Dec 15, 2013 - 11:38AM

    In west telling a woman that she is pretty is not considered sexual harassment; in fact women accept this as compliment. Same can be said for looking at someone admiringly. So we need to define harassment first. In a society where women are treated like cattle, not allowed to make decisions which are important for their lives, we need to reasserss our attititudes. Only a very small minority of women are confronted with this ‘harassment’. These are the ones who are relatively modern. Men only stare at them because there are so few of them in public life. Here in South Africa, where women walk around freely, even Pakistani men leave them alone. Nature makes sexual attraction part of our lives; If this is denied, many cannot help going over board.
    I agree women should not be bothered, but you need to explain why this is so. Attaturk banned Burqa and you do not see such harassment in Turkey to that extent.

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  • Faisal
    Dec 15, 2013 - 10:08PM

    Men can also be victim of sexual harassment as that of women. Many a woman blackmail and exploite male at work place which is and should equally be condemned and highlighted.

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  • Memememe
    Dec 16, 2013 - 6:33PM

    @Faisal: Oh grow up

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  • Meral Ghafoor
    Dec 16, 2013 - 10:18PM

    Many won’t agree with it but religion has a strong influence on social behavior. The gender segregation , the inferior place of a woman in a civil setup provided by the religion ( stay in the Kitchen and look after the kids all your life) , binding chastity to hijab… all contribute to men’s behavior .
    The laws will stay unimplemented until the society grows up. Education to all communities of the country would help in that matter before the effect of the laws can be seen.

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