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Call for changing narrative against harassment via digital outreach

The Uks Research Centre on Saturday held a ‘Dialogue for Change’ webinar on ‘Sexual Harassment in Public Spaces’ to address the gate-crashing and women harassment cases on the Karachi Eat festival’s third day. They also discussed why men unaccompanied by women are not allowed inside the city’s malls.

Senior democratic and local government specialist Fauzia Yazdani shared how the distribution of dignity kits was a hassle in the flood-hit areas. She said that to make the National Disaster Management Authority understand the needs of women is “next to impossible”.

She also mentioned how disposing off gauze or sanitary pads was problematic for the flood-hit women because they consider it a taboo for anyone to see it. “Culturally, we’re told that it’s a sin if someone finds out about it or sees it.”

She shared her experience of Lahore when she used to travel in public buses, how it used to be torture standing at the bus stop, and how men tried to grope and harass inside public buses.

She stressed that they can try and change the narrative against harassment through digital outreach, and use TikTok for that purpose as well. But, she admitted, it would take time.

Another participant, Rafia, shared how short video reels on various digital platforms can be used to change the narrative against harassment. “People have a short attention span, and they focus on short reels.”

She suggested circulating different messages in various languages on social media to educate people. As long as we do not consider it citizen journalism, things will not change in society, she pointed out.

The Legal Aid Society’s (LAS) informative video on women’s harassment was also played. LAS staff attorney Kissa Broadie shared how she started moving independently after her mother’s death, and how she would walk sometimes and experience harassment. Someone later advised her to wear a burqa, but she said that it changed nothing.

She said that advocates are available from 9am to 5pm at the LAS helpline. “Anyone who calls it can get free legal advice from an advocate then and there.”

She explained how the advice helps deal with harassment, and that they are told how the affected person can collect proofs, and who can be approached; they even provide contact information.

She said that if someone cannot afford a lawyer, the LAS provides them one for free after proper investigation. “Slowly and gradually we’re increasing its knowledge among the public.”

She also mentioned how they have reported rape and domestic violence cases through their helpline, and they have been resolved through the courts or alternative dispute resolution. They get 200 to 300 calls on a daily basis, she pointed out.

As for the media, Fauzia pointed out that the media only want to sensationalise crimes against women, and they are not sensitive to the reality.

Journalist Sibte Hassan spoke about the need of a code of ethics on social media. He said that unless a court orders against naming a victim, social and mainstream media continue to do so. He stressed the need for guidelines or regulations for social media influencers so that the victims’ identities can be protected.

Uks head Tasneem Ahmer shared how Uks is working on devising a code of ethics for social media, but at the same time, they do not want to hinder the freedom of speech.

Source: The News