Women and Sexual Harassment at Workplaces in Pakistan

Pakistan is a third world country where women’s rights are largely ignored by the public. This is ironic because women make up around half of the country’s population. Women are unaware of laws that protect them and these laws are not enforced properly. Sections 294, 354A, 366A, 496C, 509 and 510 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 are specifically relevant here. These don’t just apply to adults but also working females under 18 years of age. It’s no secret that the plague of child labor is destroying the future. The Protection against Harassment of women at Workplace Act, 2010 doesn’t seem to be effective even 8 years later. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 faces a similar dilemma.
Due to the government’s failure, women have decided to take matters into their own hands. The end of last year marked a monumental change in patriarchal setups around the world. Pakistani women actively participated too. Unfortunately, they still face considerable opposition not just from sexist males but also from females who display internalized misogyny.

Birth of #MeToo

Around 12 years ago, activist Tarana Burke founded the MeToo group. Her goal was to let survivors of sexual abuse know that they were not alone.

“You have to use your privilege to serve other people”- Tarana Burke

She mainly worked with women of color who suffer the most due to racist attitudes and the history of black slavery in the U.S. She had never imagined that MeToo would become a ray of hope for millions of survivors across the globe.

Power of social media

In October, 2017, Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet using #MeToo for others to identify themselves as survivors, share their stories and spread awareness. This had been prompted by Harvey Weinstein’s abusive history being revealed by the New York Times. Since then, dozens of high profile men have been accused of sexual abuse. Most of them have been suspended or fired even when the charges have not been proven true. This goes to show how serious people are taking this issue.
Pakistani women saw this as their chance to let out the truth that they’d been forced to keep hidden for years. Story after awful story was shared on Twitter ranging from child abuse to harassment on public transport.

“During early years of my career I was fired from work on disciplinary grounds for standing up to the CEO harassing a colleague. #MeToo”- Nudrrat Khwaja

 

Kinds of harassment

Sexual violence is not the only danger women face at offices. Many are not aware out what counts as sexual harassment.

i) Verbal

Passing suggestive comments against a coworker or employee is a serious offense punishable by Pakistani law. If a person keeps proposing intimacy and a woman has to keep rejecting him, he should be reported to HR. Cuss words towards a female is unacceptable.

ii) Physical

No one should touch a woman without her express consent. Many men are brought up to be entitled in this patriarchal society so forced physical encounters at work are common. Blocking a woman’s path or causing her to come in contact on purpose should never be tolerated.

Threats

It is not unusual for seniors to ask females for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or help at work. If the woman refuses to comply with his wishes, she is threatened with malicious rumors, suspension, firing or worse.


The idea of females being inferior at work is increased by unequal pay, rampant colorism, low professional ranking and the absence of referrals. Companies can help eliminate sexual harassment of women at workplaces in Pakistan.

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