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Nurses complain of sexual advances by co-workers

ISLAMABAD: A large number of female nurses of the federal government hospitals face sexual harassment by their bosses and co-workers.

However, they formally avoid reporting such incidents because the hospital administrations usually hush them up blaming the complainants for provoking them. In certain cases, culpable doctors and paramedics get the nurses transferred for complaining against them and assassinate their character by spreading concocted stories, Daily Times has learnt during a survey. Names of the nurses are withheld at their request.

A Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) nurse said that most of the nurses came from poor backgrounds, so they tolerated sexual advances of their bosses and co-workers to continue supporting their families.

She said almost every nurse working on night shift was vulnerable to sexual harassment. “Doctors, paramedics, administration officials, security guards, you just name a staff member and he will be found making sexual gestures towards unmarried and trainee nurses,” she said.

She said the situation was more serious at private clinics and hospitals, where nurses were declared of loose character if harassment was reported to the administration and fired.

She said nurses working at private facilities faced job insecurity, so they had to bear harassment and violence.

Another nurse of this largest government-run medical facility of the capital said that staff members, especially bosses, sexually exploited female nurses during training and probation period. Most of nurses keep silence because they are threatened with blackmail, she said.

She said harassment was in the form of provocative talk, dirty jokes, sexual gestures, unwanted and unnecessary physical contact etc. She said besides staff, some patients and their relatives too harassed nurses but the latter had to show patience.

She said a senior military officer abused and thrashed a nurse at a ward three months ago but went unpunished.

She said her nursing superintendent knew such incidents but had no powers to proceed against harassers. She could only report the matter to the PIMS executive director, which is usually followed by no action against culpable officials.

A senior nurse at Polyclinic confirmed doctors’ sexual advances towards young female nurses. She said if a nurse challenged harasser, then she had to face insulting remarks and abuses for being inefficient and work shirker.

She claimed that over 75 percent of female nurses are subjected to sexual harassment at the workplace but they didn’t report the incidents out of shame. She said she was unaware of the laws promising punishment to the harassers.

Another nurse of the hospital said that female nurses were generally regarded as objects of sexual pleasure by male colleagues and doctors, therefore, they were often harassed.

“It is very common at hospitals that male staff use highly offensive language and make meaningful gestures in the presence of nurses but neither they feel shame for their acts nor do anyone stop them,” she said.

PIMS Nursing Superintendent Kulsoom Akhtar refused to speak to Daily Times, saying the rules prevent her from doing so. However, the chief nurse of Polyclinic could not be contacted despite good attempts.
Source: Daily Times
Date:5/13/2008

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