We have been living in a patriarchal society with well-defined gender specific behaviors. The general consensus in the society holds men as the dominant, powerful and superior beings, whereas, women are often considered as weak and powerless in the society. Surprisingly, we claim to be democratic and free, yet we never talk about countless deeply rooted issues that have tormented our society.
We claim to be an Islamic state, yet our women consider themselves more secure in Europe and America than the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Harassment in Pakistan can be considered a white elephant in the room that no one sees.
The issue is so profoundly rooted that sexually harassing woman is viewed as a type of entertainment rather than a crime, with an emphasis unequivocally on the victim’s behavior and appearance rather than on the assailant.
You will find many cases in which women are ambushed, tormented, assaulted and harassed each and every day within our country. And to put a cherry on the top, a hefty portion of our women stays quiet over this injustice because it is inculcated in their minds since their childhood that the maintenance of family honor is in their hands, so they prefer not to embarrass their families or to become the talk of the town.
If any woman dares to complain about harassment, individuals tend to turn a blind eye. Sexual harassment cannot only be defined by physical offense. It starts from any gesture, stares or remarks that makes a woman feel uncomfortable and insecure.
After interviewing a number of educated women from diverse backgrounds, I was completely astonished to know that most of them don’t fully conceive the term sexual harassment or know the fact that by law, it is a crime.
However, they identify certain acts of sexual harassment. At the point when asked what was the first thing that came to their minds after hearing the term sexual harassment, Aleena, the student of Punjab University, said, “you get really scared while thinking about yourself in that situation.”
Mariyam started recalling the day to day forms of sexual harassment when the same question was asked to her: “I recall constant staring at workplace in universities, giving signals that make you uncomfortable, somebody continuously chasing you…” Both of them seem to be disappointed at the way women are treated in our society. As per social worker Dr.
Fouzia Saeed, “It is the power of hierarchies that resist change. So unless these power structures are broken and replaced with good and effective structures the mindset will not change, just creating awareness is not enough besides accountability is vital here.” So all I see is the need of the overhauling of our whole system.
The introduction of the law is not enough, unless all stakeholders try their level best to understand it in order to make it work.
Intro: Sabah Mushtaq is M.Phil student in the History Department of Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.