BY: Saher Baloch
KARACHI: Only two per cent crimes in the name of honour get reported in the media, while most of such complaints being reported to the police are lodged by men as women approach the law enforcement agency only in seven per cent cases. These views were expressed by Dr Salman Asif, an expert on gender, on Saturday while speaking at a consultative workshop on Safety Challenges for Female Media Professional in Pakistan. The event was organised by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PFF) with the support of Open Society Institute.
The workshop, which discussed safety challenges faced by women in general and those working in the media in particular, was divided into two sessions. One focused on the aspects related to gender-based violence and the second session focused on the challenges faced by women in the media where women journalists from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh shared their experiences. Senior journalist Afia Salam and PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali also spoke about the legislation on sexual harassment and committees formed by media houses and their effectiveness. Starting off with crime in the name of honour, Dr Asif spoke about the recent killing of a 16-year-old girl in Abbottabad on the orders of a Jirga.
He said such cases were usually reported with a lot of surprise element, where the language used by reporters entailed that it was an unexpected incident. “It is not an unexpected incident when killing for honour is considered acceptable in many areas of our society,” he added.
Dr Asif explained that violence against women usually began with the language used against them. He said it seemed as if the language used in the reports and related discussions on social media was intended to titillate the imagination of the public. “These posts discuss the age, gender and the crime committed against a woman but one finds almost no details of the perpetrator,” he added.
Many a time, he said, the women seeking justice with regard to sexual harassment or abuse of power were sent back to the same localities and referred to an alternative system, also known as a reconciliation committee. “The role of these committees needs to be looked into deeply. Local stakeholders usually involved in those committees at times show their partiality in the judgement of honour related cases,” he added.
Ninety-eight per cent of crime in the name of honour whether happening in Rajanpur in Punjab or Mirpurkhas in Sindh or any part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were never reported, Dr Asif said. In the remaining two per cent cases, men were usually found lodging complaints whereas only seven per cent of women reported the cases to police, he said.
Media and harassment cases
In the second session, Ms Salam joined Dr Asif in discussing issues related to sexual harassment and its reportage. “Out of more than a hundred news channels and a dozen or more newspapers, only three news outlets have a committee to listen to cases of sexual harassment,” said the senior journalist while opening the session.
Throughout the session, journalists from various news organisations shared their experiences and how they were isolated in the course of reporting harassment. Ms Salam said that reporting harassment within the media outlets was a “long winding process”. She elaborated that it had a lot to do with the way a committee was formed and the way it executed the cases it received. Of the 12 committee members, three were supposed to be women, she added.
However, women journalists questioned the authority and decision-making power of these women. One journalist, while sharing her experience of filing a harassment case in a reputed news organisation, said: “Half of my time was spent in providing the details of what a colleague had said to me. After almost a year of explanations I was told that I need to wait as the committee is not in the position to decide.” She was eventually informed that there was “no ideal environment anywhere and she needs to adjust her ideals instead”.