working women sexual harassment projected by AASHA!

On Thursday, January 31; An assembly by Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA), which comprises of organizations including: Actionaid, Mehergarh, Bedari, Pilor and Intereko Resource Center, was held in Best Western Islamabad at 11 am and ended at 6 pm.

In the conference many working women flee from all corners of the country including cities like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Chakwal and many others. The women attended the conference are working in different factories including nurses from different hospitals.

The conference was headed by Dr. Fouzia saeed from Mehergarh and Aqsa Khan from Actionaid. The chief guests were Madam Mehnaz Rafi and Doniya Aziz, member PML (Q), Saeeda Arfa Zahra from NCSW and Saima Khar from PPP and renowned Poetess Kishwar Naheed were present.

The conference started with a stage play in which the problems and how a young nurse being harassed by the male doctors and nurses. It also depicted the mental trauma through which women suffers as she has no one on her back who would listen to her and help her instead she will be the one to be blamed and fired from her job.

The debate was that why working women of Pakistan are being harassed and what consequences they have to face. On the AASHA platform the NGOs representatives presented a code of conduct for gender justice and demanded for the protection of working women in Pakistan. At this point Saeeda Arfa Zahra said and I cote “Men kill women for their own honor, if it is about their honor why do not they kill themselves. If it would be about our honor we will kill ourselves by ourselves”, on this women in the hall clapped with all their hearts. She also added that women have to make their own identity and stand strong. They are neither helpless nor weak only if they know what their strengths are.

The code of conduct for gender justice had 15 points; some of them are as follows:
1. It demanded that women should not only be referred as mothers, wives and daughters but they should be taken as a human being first, as they are much more than their relations with the men in their lives.
2. It demands that women should be provided with social and legal protection at work places.
3. Asked from political parties to clearly state what they will do for the working women in their mandate.
4. To have legislation that gives women protection against sexual harassment at work place.
5. Government should institutionalize the code of conduct for gender justice (anti sexual harassment policy) for all the government hospitals and health services.
6. the government of Pakistan honors the international commitment i.e. CFDAW, ILO Convention 100 and 111 that covers fundamental rights of men and women at work
Later that evening after lunch break the visiting working women were divided into three groups
1. general problems
2. factory workers
3. nurses
Within these groups, women shared their experiences of harassment at their work place and tell how society and locality members treat them if they know about their harassment. One of the factory members said that it does not matter who’s fault is it, woman is the only entity being blamed for every action and situation. People point fingers on her character no matter how poise she is. Women also complained that managers and owners prefer young beautiful women for their organization and give them better salaries as compared to the older women who are degraded and appointed at less salary.(we in the cities relate to it by knowing the fact that young beautiful girls are prefered for reception jobs)

While talking to Dr. Fouzia Saeed few students of different universities complained that their male teachers use degrading and abusive words for women while teaching women. And prefer giving good marks to those who have good looks. In answer to that I, as was also present there, said that being a student I think ones most important concern would be to get good grades and if that person knows that teacher will give her that, if she smile to him, she would do that because she has to survive in her college or university and in her practical life as well. So blaming a woman for being beautiful isn’t right. another problem is that in women universities such as Fatimah Jinnah Women university, Rawalpindi smoking is prohibited to keep the environmnet clean but the outsiders, male, and faculity memebers are allowed to smoke. the point is if they are then why not university students? in our society smoking is related to one’s character specially if its a woman who smokes but for men there is always an excuse or explanation.

There were many core problems being discussed which I think it would be better if we talk on those on this platform with my readers through discussion.

Is there any solution to stop women discrimination and harassment? Can we give a better life to the women of Pakistan? Will men ever stop taking woman as an ornament? And treat her as a fellow human being but not as someone’s daughter, mother or wife?

Is there any change in the behavior of young men and women of today’s Pakistan or they are as well following the foot steps of deep routed behaviors of men, from centuries, towards women?

At the end I salute those women who came to this conference and shared their experiences without any hesitation or shyness. I think you and I can never have this much courage to tell more than 100 audience that you have been abused or harassed. Hats off to them.
Give it a deep thought and then write what you think of it.

10 Comments so far

  1. IUnknown (unregistered) on February 1st, 2008 @ 10:53 am

    well, if women go out wearing tight sleveless dress, who doesnt want to bug hher?

  2. Ghalia Aymen (unregistered) on February 1st, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

    woo IUNKNOWN! i am impressed by your thoughts on it..thanks no more comments

  3. Phil (unregistered) on February 1st, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

    "In Rome do as Romans do." (Latin Proverb)

    You need to dress yourself in accordance to the regional customs. But regardless of someone’s clothing, no one has the right to ‘bug her or them’. Sexual Harassment is a big NO, NO! kthxbai!

  4. JayJay (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2008 @ 7:55 am

    Excellent post, Ghalia. Thanks for reporting on this critical issue.

    UNKNOWING’s ignorant comment sends only one, outdated message — "She asked for it" — to justify the despicable practice of harassing women. It is so embarrassing to be a man when men like UNKNOWING don’t cringe while expressing their misogyny so crudely in public, not to mention their actions.

    The idiotic logic by UNKNOWING will only result in:
    1) Justifying any robbery on the grounds that the house was not locked properly or at least justifying stealing anything from weak and vulnerable on the grounds that a person deserved it because of his/her infirmity – a purely law of jungle argument;
    2) Wrongly implying that only jeans-wearing women are sexually harassed. However, the reality is that women are harassed by predators (read men) whether one is wearing a burqa or even when one is confined at home. Unknowing, to know read up on the prevalence of domestic violence (which included sexual and physical violence) in Pakistan.

    Don’t blame women. It is not easy to brave ogling men, ready to pester you for no reason. It is also not right to assume that men tease and harass women according to their dress. Even chaddar-clad or burqa-covered women are not spared. If men like UNKNOWING don’t like women to be dressed in modern clothes in public, perhaps they should not look at them, rather than harassing them.

    In Pakistan, women, from any class or social group, cannot dare to go out for fun, only out of necessity. Men need to start behaving themselves and start respecting women as equals, although social customs and laws are still heavily loaded against women. If the measure of a civilisation is based on how it treats its women, I am sure our standing will be at the bottom of the ladder. We all know that women feel much safer on the streets of London, New York or Sydney, than Islamabad, Lahore, or Karachi.

    The problem is with men and the way they view women, not with women or with their dressing. Until men take responsibility for their own behaviour, women will not be free, equal or even human.

  5. IUnknown (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2008 @ 9:32 am

    @jayjay: tum itnay baysuray q ho?
    kia paidaishi aisay ho?

    Most of ur comments never worth reading after first two lines.

  6. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

    Ironically most of such freak are so called educated and non-religious morons. Infact most of them spend time in smoking or wandering here and there. we need to getrid of these kind of "terrorist".

  7. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on February 4th, 2008 @ 3:20 am

    We all know that women feel much safer on the streets of London, New York or Sydney, than Islamabad, Lahore, or Karachi.


  8. Lahori (unregistered) on February 4th, 2008 @ 7:01 am

    Despite being "unsafe" on streets, American women can be seen in public at all hours, walking and working freely. I wonder whY?

    I think our ideal should be Saudi Arabia where there is absolutely no harassment of women at all.

  9. Adnan SIddiqi (unregistered) on February 4th, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

    @Lahori: if this is "Safe USA" then I wonder what’s insecure USA for you?

    come out of ignorance and lead a sane life. There is NO place on earth where one can say women are safe so singing praises of west is as lame as singing praises of the dictator without knowing reality.

  10. Ghalia Aymen (unregistered) on February 5th, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

    I would say that if people think, including men and women, that its the woman who force men to harass them then I would proud to say that women has more power to attract men than God….(wink wink), who says lower down your eyes when you see a woman. It’s the weakness of our faith, nothing to do with woman’s dressing.

    and the women I am talking about specifically are those lower middle working class who live in interior areas of Pakistan, they no nothing about fashion. so we can well imagine if they are suffering such tyranny what would it be like for women who don’t live up to the expectations of men in our society. I also accept the fact than men are also harassed by women but that happens rarely, thought should not be neglected. But have we ever seen a girl harassing a man on streets or in public places, Passing remarks, singing nude songs, whistling and stuff?
    we thing that if a man does not touch a woman and just pass remarks is not an harassment…woo hooo we are so wrong. By that we are torturing them psychologically. there is always a pinch in my head when ever I o out and guys do such stuff…please take woman as a human being…she also has a soul which is being tortured by the men in our society or all around the world, if I say so. But the situation is worse in Pakistan.

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