Harassment hustle

Get a handle on this




There are sharply divided opinions on the subject of harassment. This is an everyday reality; there is no doubt about this. Both the accused and the complainant suffer in the aftermath. Earlier there was a culture of hushing it up. That rather encouraged the aggressors. Now people have started to come out against this. The West is abuzz with #MeToo movement. One after the other celebrities spoke out and there were serious repercussions for those who were accused and later proven guilty of the crime.

In Pakistan too, every now and then we have been hearing cases of harassment in the showbiz industry and at workplaces. The government aided by the civil society organisations and social activists enacted a law for the prevention of harassment at workplaces. Under the law every department – government or private – was bound to have a committee that handles complaints concerning sexual harassment. It has worked to an extent but it looks like it needs further improvement in its rules of business and methods of investigations.

The Meesha Shafi case is one example where even the court after the passage of nearly a year cannot reach a conclusion and the both the parties to the case have been complaining about not getting justice. Another showbiz personality Jami lately has come forward and revealed that he was raped by another important personality of the industry some 13 years ago. He said when he told people about it. They laughed it off.

An English language professor at Government MAO College committed suicide amid a case in which he was accused of harassment. Even when the inquiry against him was concluded and nothing was proven against him, he was never given a clean chit by the college hurting his reputation. In a note that the professor wrote to investigating committee head, he said the matter had tarnished his image.

MAO College Principal said he was never approached for a clearance letter otherwise he would have issued him one. The clarification sadly came too late. The issue is sensitive, complex and pervasive. To effectively deal with it to the satisfaction of the parties concerned we need sharp laws, rules and procedures.