LAHORE: Unless a culprit of sexual harassment is punished by law and shamed by the media, the menace of sexual harassment will only be passively encouraged in our society.
The government should not just focus on legislation but should also show how it is being implemented. The government should make CCTV cameras mandatory at all government, private and semi-government offices and should punish and fine on non-compliance.
The role of broadcast media while dealing with cases of sexual harassment has been careless and insensitive to the privacy and security of the victims of harassment. The distance between policy, polity and people in case of harassment is vast.
These views were shared by guests at the Jang Forum held on the topic “Sexual Harassment – How and When will Pakistan Wake-up”. The guests at the forum were PTI leader Begum Mehnaz Rafi, Civil Society Human Rights Activist Dr Tehmina Roohi, PPP MPA Faiza Malik and Physiotherapist and PML-N MPA Dr Aliya Aftab. The forum was anchored and moderated by Moayyed Jafri
Begum Mehnaz Rafi said the overall mindset of the society needs to be reformed as a whole when it comes to sexual behaviour. She said the repressive society with its patriarchal overtone needs an extensive and aggressive awareness campaign in this regard. The problem is multi-dimensional and multi-fold as the one becoming the victim neither know their rights not how to counter such a situation. She said Pakistan passes bills and makes laws just because of the international pressure of being signatory to global protocols and conventions but these are all hollow institutions and a mere eyewash. There is no conviction behind any of these laws as they are in contradiction with the societal order and there is no mechanism for effective implementation. Civil Society Human Rights Activist Dr Tehmina Roohi said the legislators were ill-informed about how to draft a law that would effectively guard against sexual harassment in a patriarchal society without putting the life and future of the victim in jeopardy. She pointed out that there was zero representation in policy of the largest population faction of women which was rural. These women, she said, experience the worst form of sexual harassment and have zero awareness and voice.
She criticised the growing apathy to the victim in broadcast media which has little or no regard for any female victim concerning her right to privacy, non-disclosure and security. She said that currently the Ministry of Law on Human Rights had got its eyes on the Nusrat Women Hostels in Islamabad and was employing the worst harassment tactics to vacate this place so that they could grab the land.
PPP MPA Faiza Malik said that the government should form “Implementation Committees” in addition to zero-result fact finding committees over such grave issues. She said Women Protection Bill should be passed in the assembly as soon as possible and with a strong mechanism to implement it should be established. She proposed that all female parliamentarians should conduct survey of workplaces to ensure that all steps were being taken to guard against sexual harassment.
She said the Local Government act was a mockery of female representation and rights. She said this government was travelling back in time regarding women rights instead of being progressive.
PML-N MPA Dr Aliya Aftab agreed with the other guests that although steps had been taken but there was still vast room for improvement. She said the government understood this and therefore was very keen to strengthen the women through legislation. She said that she was working on a women protection bill and believed this would help a great deal in improving the state of affairs regarding sexual harassment.
She said there was a dire need of changing the mindset of the society towards women, especially working women who had to deal with men out of family. She said the rural end of this awareness could very effectively be handled by training and making the lady health workers and midwives spread this awareness. She said the media needed to follow a more ethical approach towards such sensitive issues.