Few things bint-e-hawwa has to bear

Posted on October 23, 2007
Filed Under >JayJay, Society
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by JayJay

The life of a Pakistani woman is not easy. It is not a hidden fact that she is subjected to discrimination and harassment, within and without the so-called sanctuary of her home. However, harassment and bullying becomes more intense and blatant when she steps out of her home for work or education. From catcalls to verbal innuendo to physical harassment, she has to endure it all, mostly at the hands of strangers, on the streets and on public transport. This harassment does not stop, or rather become more palpable in many cases, at her place of work. The act of harassing women, with sexual tones and motives, by fellow employees or supervisors/managers is referred to sexual harassment. Wikipedia defines sexual harassment as:

Harassment or unwelcome attention of a sexual nature. It includes a range of behavior from mild transgressions and annoyances to serious abuses, which can even involve forced sexual activity. Sexual harassment is considered a form of illegal discrimination in many countries, and is a form of abuse (sexual and psychological) and bullying.

An editorial from The News on October 1 has summed up the issue well, by pointing out to the absence of appropriate legislation to deal with this growing phenomenon. Offering some the broad suggestions, the editorial reads:

As a first step, the government and the private sector should join hands to start a campaign in which sexual harassment in the workplace is defined. This will make working women understand what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior in a workplace. The second step in this national exercise would be to ask employers to put into place a proper policy that defines sexual harassment and clearly spells out what action is to be taken against someone found guilty of it. In addition to this, employers need to have a mechanism which enables any employee subjected to such harassment to approach an appropriate forum for filing a complaint. The complaint should be treated confidentially and investigated, and if guilty the offender should be punished according to the employer’s code of ethics for employees. Of course, given that many companies have an environment which is more or less male-dominated and where men are in most decision-making senior roles, it may be a bit much to expect that things will change overnight. However, to do nothing would also be a sign that we as a nation are not willing to evolve and provide justice to those who are victims of this menace.

The menace of sexual harassment at the place of work has been comprehensively and effectively addressed by the West where workplaces are no longer the sole domain of men. Pakistan has a lot to catch up on this matter, and quickly so, as more and more women are entering workforce. It makes economic sense both for employers and the government to have an effective and clear legislation and corporate policies to protect women against harassment. Not only skills and talent of education women can be brought to use more effectively by attracting them in a safe workplace but it has been seen worldwide that presence of women in offices helps boost productivity, besides infusing fresh ideas and way of thinking.

While enacting a piece of legislation and formulating policies is most critical step, a concerted awareness campaign is necessary to influence general attitudes and social behaviors. Without bringing about change to prevalent perception of working women in Pakistan, there is little chance of success in overcoming the problem of sexual harassment. The fact of matter is that most women in Pakistan brave into men-dominated workplaces out of economic necessity, rather than to fulfill career aspirations. The position of women in workplace in Europe, North American and even South East Asia has become entrenched, still it is not odd to come across a public service announcement to press the message on the issue. Such public service announcements are even more necessary in a society like Pakistan where we leg behind even comparable countries in accepting the role of women at work.

99 responses to “Few things bint-e-hawwa has to bear”

  1. Watan Aziz@yahoo.com says:

    There used to a time when ATP was purposeful. This post is reflective of that.

    Then it took the wrong turn.

    Now it is “tashbeen” and “afwa-khaiz”.

    There is hope based on past performance.

  2. Khwaja Aftab Ali, Florida, USA says:

    FIVE REGIONAL CITIES should be upgraded with in the provinces in Pakistan. Regional cities of Dera Ismail Khan in NWFP, Gawadar/ Qalat in Balouchistan, Sukkar/ Larkana in Upper Sind, Jehlam/ Rawalpindi and Multan in Punjab province. These regional cities have been ignored by the federal and provincial governments although these cities have their own history, culture and languages.Dera Ismail Khan in south of Pakhtun khwa/MWFP is under seige, Multan/DG Khan in south of Punjab is next target of religious extremists,Sukkar/ Larkana is being rule by criminals, Gawadar/ Qalat is trouble some. The people of these regions have to travel to provincial capitals for every small issue and requirement of the daily life which should be provided in nearby cities. A good number of population travel to big cities for their survival to earn livelihood as the local feudal own majority land and keep the common man as their slaves. Creation of regional government and upgrading of the regional cities will save a lot of money and time of the poor people of these regions. Circuit benches of the High Courts are already working in these areas and only requirement is the additional staff of different departments involved in additional work at the provincial capitals. The concern authorities should immediately consider to upgrade the regional cities. And immediate attention should be given upgrade/build the airports,TV station, civic center, libraries,hospitals, educational institutes and investment opportunities for Pakistanis living abroad and foreign firms to create jobs in the area as majority population in rural Pakistan do not have enough resources to survive. It remind me the condition of pre Islamic revolution of Iran in Shah time when the rural Iran was ignored and the capital Tehran was developed in a way to call it Paris of Middle East with modern life style. Couple of other big cities like Isfahan and Caspian sea was taken care of because of foreign tourists but rural area was ruled by cruel police and intelligence. Then what happen rural population supported the Islamic revolution and moved to Tehran and other big cities later on. The new government after revolution developed, built and upgraded the rural areas of Iran accordingly. A fund to upgrade/build these regional cities in Pakistan should be introduced by public and private sector and Pakistani government, our foreign friends and Pakistanis living abroad may be asked to participate in this development mission in the country..KHWAJA AFTAB ALI,( former secretary, Iranian embassy, Saudi Arabia,1975-88) Advocate High Court & I.P. Attorney-first & the only Pakistani lawyer who earned Intellectual Property laws scholarship in USA,presently residing in Florida, USA. all_languages@hotmail.com

    Khwaja Aftab Ali, Florida, USA Says:

    Who says there is no feudal in Pakistan. Rural Pakistan is control by the feudals, even in urban areas one can see the people who work hard and other who exploit the situation and make money in the name of Muslim saints or family lands. Our ruling class of so called politicians is from feudals and then industrialist follow them for power in authoritarian society. Law making body-the Majlish Shora, parliament -the senate , national assembly, provincial assembly and district council , every where the members are feudal, indusrialists, drug barons and /or Rtd. corrupt police officers with few Rtd, army officers as well. The writer of the this article and a leading scholar Dr. Aisha Siddiqa is also from feudal class with extra ordinary intelligence. I agree with some people that one should do some thing instead of suggestions. I have done some thing by leaving my home land as it’s hopeless there; unless there is rule of law not the law of ruler and we should follow the rule accordingly. Very simple law of inheritance can change our country’s future. What ever law we follow, Islamic or British- Muslim personal law, the property should be divided accordingly after the death of a person in a reasonable time but what happen in our country- this is the basic problem. If division of property is done by the law, there will be no feudal and if there is no feudal: the country will flourish. See rest of the world specially the developed world where majority people from under developed countries want to come. All the best for the rest of the people all over the world. KHWAJA AFTAB ALI, Advocate & I.P. Attorney in Pakistan, presently living in Florida, USA

  3. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    Shame on the Democracy, the western style colonials have done their dirty job with the help of our Roshan Khayal

  4. MQ says:

    Here is a letter in The News today, which is relevant to this post:

    I am a workingwoman and a resident of Gulistan Colony, Wah Cantonment. I travel daily by public transport to and from Rawalpindi/Islamabad like many other workingwomen of the colony. It’s a matter of concern that women can’t even walk for 10 minutes peacefully from their homes to the bus stop because of men who roam in the streets on bikes and shamefully harass women they pass by.

    They suddenly appear from somewhere and run away on motorbikes after passing nasty remarks. They do not even hesitate to touch or hit poor ladies. Their bikes have no number plates. The area police should take the matter seriously and immediately do something to check this nasty trend.

    Wah Cantt


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