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Real life isn’t like Bollywood or Hollywood, cautions anti-harassment activist

By: Saadia Qamar

KARACHI: Women who speak up against harassment are often branded “bad women”, reminded Fouzia Saeed, the author of Working with Sharks and Taboo, at an event held at The Second Floor this week. “A good woman is considered to be someone who sacrifices and remains silent, whereas a bad woman speaks up.” And the notion of ‘bad women’, Saeed says, comes from the ‘Old Europe’ notion of witches.

Saeed, a human rights activist and a director at the learning institute Mehergarh, was speaking at a discussion about her new book. She recalled her own experience at the UNDP, where she was harassed by a male colleague, and along with 10 other women, she filed a case against him. But the stigma, Saeed says, is still attached to the women. While they are survivors, lodging a complaint turns you into “bad women”.

The notion of good versus bad is bred in the gap between academic and practical life. “Girls who are bred in an all-girls school are told that good is out there in the world. Precisely, you need to do good and be good. However, when practical life starts, things are sadly very different. It’s the same case with girls who are getting married and they think life is definitely going to have a fairy-tale ending. That is never the case. This is real life and all kinds of people live in this world. You need to keep Bollywood and Hollywood away from your thoughts on reality.” The stigma prevents women from talking about the issue. “When exactly are we going to allow these women to speak out?” Saeed asked. “In 2012, how long are we going to stigmatise women and consider them lepers living in our [midst]? Is it going to take the next seven lives to do away with it, all?”

A question and answer session was held after her talk. She was asked where one needs to draw the line at the workplace. The scale should be your comfort level with a respective individual, she said. “If you are uncomfortable with someone, be assertive in your communication.”

Source: The Express Tribune

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