“Intimidation, harassment and violence have no place in a democracy.” - Mo Ibrahim.
Workplace harassment in Pakistan is a FACT.
Harassment is a major issue in the workplace and it affects millions of workers, especially in Pakistan. Most people here know what "harassment" means, however their ideas are vague on the different types of harassment that exist. Therefore, let me first slightly elaborate on the different types of harassment that exist.
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.
Additional reasons for workplace harassment going unreported are mentioned below:
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 :
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:
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.
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