“Intimidation, harassment and violence have no place in a democracy.” - Mo Ibrahim.
Workplace harassment in Pakistan is a FACT.
- Sexual harassment
- Racial/ ethnic harassment
- Religious harassment
- Age harassment
- Gender harassment
I find women to be the soul of every nation and with the great paradigm shift in the process of globalization, women are entering the market place more rapidly than ever before. This is forming an empowering symbol of what women can do at work, not just at home, through the utilization of their skilled work and innate talent.
Unfortunately, there are a few grotesque vultures that have taken the development of women entering the workplace as a window to promote and perform violence and mistreatment against women. Whether the reason for this is to halt women from progressing in society or whether it is the simple inability of some men to control their desires in the workplace, it is an act strongly condemned in Pakistan and there is no rational or irrational justification for harassment of women at work.
This is precisely why one can state there is no doubt that workplace harassment is real and not a myth in Pakistan, South Asia and across the world.
Research was carried out in Europe by UNISON in 2008 which estimates that up to 50% of female employees in European Union countries have experienced sexual harassment. This is an appalling number.
However, the honesty that prevails in these research results reflects the societal mindset in European countries, where people are open to talk about harassment, file a case, and have the culprit face the consequences.
Unfortunately, workplace harassment in Pakistan, and especially in the smaller cities or villages, is seen as a “taboo” topic. A topic which, if brought up, is considered to leave a tainted mark on the honor of a woman, despite the harassment not being her fault. This is why most Pakistani women do not report their case of workplace harassment.
- Fear of losing their jobs.
- Fear of facing embarrassment or shame at being harassed.
- Psychological fear of being attacked by culprit again for speaking up about their harassment.
- Fear of being called a “liar” if harassment cannot be proved.
However, despite the issue of workplace harassment in Pakistan being seen as a "taboo" topic, surprisingly the government of Pakistan, NGO’s and citizens of Pakistan have come together over the last seven years to conceptually and pragmatically put an end to harassment; or at least implement ways to end workplace harassment.
In 2010 “The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act” was signed by President Asif Ali Zardari. Turning this bill into law was a huge step for the nation. This law gave women such as me the mental peace of knowing that if such an incident occurred at the workplace, I could protect myself from the culprit under this law.
From a local lens, one of the few NGO’s to this end that exist in Pakistan is called AASHA – the word itself means “Hope”. A hope to root out harassment, especially of women, from society.
This NGO’s aim, like many other such NGO’s in Pakistan, is to raise awareness on the issue of harassment and assist the government and private sectors in the creation of a society free of sexual harassment. This, I feel, is a great step towards changing Pakistani mentality and eradicating the disease of harassment from our societal environment.
A working paper was recently published by Munir Moosa Sadruddin titled “Sexual Harassment at Workplace in Pakistan- Issues and Remedies about the Global Issue at Managerial Sector”
This paper articulately addresses the implementation of women rights in Pakistan and the harassment faced by women in the workplace, as well as the practical implementation of the Bill of 2010. Which *spoiler alert*, without implementation value just seems like a piece of paper.
Before, we discuss the practical implementation of bills and laws passed in Pakistan, I made a brief timeline to illustrate the events pertaining to sexual harassment in Pakistan.
Year 2010 :
- Senate Passes Bill Against Harassment of Women at Workplace.
- Country Clears Landmark Bill against Workplace Harassment in Pakistan.
- Bill Signed Into Law for Women's Protection against Harassment In Pakistan.
- Backlash Rises Against Bill on Sexual Harassment.
- Zardari Signs Bill: Harassment of Women Is Now a Crime.
- The Law Against Workplace Harassment in Pakistan Exists, Now What?
- Segregation Breeds Sexual Harassment.
- Sexual Harassment Bill: ‘Implement Law to Protect Women.
- Women Often Fear Repercussions for Reportage.
- UN in Pakistan Endorses the 'Protection against Sexual Harassment at Work' Act.
- Challenges In the Workplace: Working Women in Pakistan.
- Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Bill 2012.
- NADRA Implementing Protection against Women Harassment Act.
- Workplace Harassment in Pakistan Continues To Hamper Women's Empowerment.
- Sexual Harassment in Pakistan Is Increasing Despite the “Protection against Harassment of Women at Work Place Act 2010.
If you would like further detailed information on these laws and bills passed kindly visit Tracking Laws: Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act.
Readers, as you can tell from the timeline, on paper it seems Pakistan is more than efficiently tackling the problem of workplace harassment; however, as the article by Express Tribune suggests, the practical implementation of laws against workplace harassment is weak in nature.
The question that arises then is what is the long term solution to eliminate workplace harassment in Pakistan?
And in my perspective the solution rests in educating the people of Pakistan. We as a community must step up and make the change. Those reading this article need to understand one point: here is the cure. We can all make a difference which will together form a chain reaction, catalyzing the removal of this pesky weed of harassment from the beautiful garden that is our society.
Leave talking; Start doing-
Here are a list of simple steps you can implement to end harassment in Pakistan:
- Start an awareness campaign to show that a Bill related to Women’s Rights in the workplace was passed.
- Create a photocopy manuscript of the bill of rights related to women rights in workplace and keep a copy of it at the workplace so that everyone is aware of their rights.
- If your friends or colleagues at work make “innocent” or “casual” jokes in this regard, condemn them and let them know that joking about such issues is not harmless, nor is it funny, as it subconsciously creates the notion that “harassment” is an issue to be taken lightly.
- Be aware of your workplace environment and colleagues. If you notice a certain employee acting differently or their motivation levels decreased, channel your emotional intelligence and don’t be afraid to ask them if they’re doing okay. You will be surprised to see how many people can open up about the harassment that they have faced if they have a helping hand and a lending ear.
- At your firm talk to your HR department to host a seminar or a work shop on sexual harassment.
- If your HR department does not carry through, during your office break, you yourself can talk of the rights of women and casually bring this topic to light.
- If all these tactics fail, then as a woman try to sit in groups with other women during lunch breaks and avoid going to the workplace bathroom alone.
- Try to avoid sitting alone for extra hours of work.
- If you are a spiritual individual then you can recite Ayat- Ul - Kursi before leaving for work.
Lastly, do not shy away from talking about this topic. In the event of harassment reporting your case, remember that it is YOUR “haqq”, YOUR right granted to you by your state, by your religion, by the fact that YOU are a human being. Who knows if in being brave you are helping other women to step forward and be strong as well, and perhaps in the process, preventing someone else from being harassed.
Useful Youtube Links; you are not alone..
Vivacious. And making waves.