Protect My Glass House

Mahrukh Pasha
Posted September 12, 2013 from Pakistan
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Harassment is a very common word used in many different situations but why when this word is heard from the lips of a woman does it become scandalous? Harassment when attached with the term sexual harassment becomes to grab more attention than other terms attached to this word. I look around myself and see a glass house of terror. Glass house yes because my everything is to be in eyes of others and can be scanned and crushed.

Life in a metro is often considered more independent, busy and happening but behind that the people living in it hides the deep stress, anxiety and depression. For a woman to Live in a big city of Pakistan is not easy it is as hard as living in a small town or village. The social circle around the women of urban area in Pakistan makes it very hard for her to live without a male accompanying her and that male should be her brother, husband or father none of the other relations are taken respectable. And a woman who lives alone becomes the unhidden treasure for the hunters to hunt by their eyes, words and worst cases include hands. We do talk about that women who are financially strong or living in urban areas are being considered more empowered than the others but still every woman in her life have encountered at least once sexual harasser.

The harasser of urban community in Pakistan is quite different from the one which are found in the other towns. Let’s begin the story of an urban harasser and his daily job. Starting his bike or car, putting the hands free in the ears listening to his favorite song and driving along the wall of a women college, school or workplaces. Dress up in complete party style couture, drenched into the smell of strongest perfume in the town, touching his mustaches and looking with the eyes of eagle, a harasser finds his target to lock down. Going through the intense checkup and scanning its prey from head to toe and within 2 minutes memorize the whole anatomy of its prey the predator lock down its target in less than 5 minutes. A normal girl in Pakistan is scared to talk and give a back off call to the person who is harassing her considering that it can result into her defame or kidnapping and in most of the cases it’s true.

I consider it not as that the harasser is a bad human but he needs psychological help to overcome his complexities and become a man who respects women. In my true beliefs a man who doesn't respect women is basically victim of inferiority complex and can’t stand to see a woman empowered. This example of prey and predator fits exactly here and it will remain as long as we will be scared from the predators and it will only result in more cases of sexual harassment and rape.

Holding a pen and a small writing notepad and headed outside to collect the comments of men and women of urban areas about this sensitive issue. Most of the people rejected to talk about it as it’s too bold and too bad to talk about it though it is such an important issue which is emerging a lot of troubles in the society. Those who agreed to talk mostly described that it is one of the tragedy of our culture to keep women suppressed from the very start. The corruption is in the foundation of our society and people are kept silent and threatened not to talk about it. The lack of morality is one of another element which needs to be under consideration. The sexual harassers in urban society are taking birth because nobody is there to educate those harassers to become protectors. A person can be anything depends upon how you treat them and who you raised them to be.

Talking to a Fahad Rehman (a subject specialist in worker welfare board) who belongs to a very conservative yet one of the big cities of Pakistan said; the only solution to this issue is that women must be empowered as much as possible. They should be encouraged to take as much part in all the social activities as possible, right next to men, side by side. However, I think a major overhaul is needed in the men’s department, where a lot of efforts and work is needed to take out the narrow-minded and chauvinistic males from their highly ill-conceived notions about the status of women in the society. So more education is not enough, we need an overall change in the value system of our society, values where women are considered equal and as respectful and capable just like men. In my view only then we can see some positive progress on this problem. The implementation of laws and bills such as “Women Empowerment Bill” would be a great boost.

Moving towards the other culture of society the working women class of urban areas and how they deal with harassment every day. I keenly observed that working women mostly keep themselves quite limited and firm in order to give a negative response to the men working with them. In an atmosphere of working from 9 to 5 the relationship between employees should be strong and relaxed. On the other hand sometime their politeness is taken negative and specially women with liberal nature have to suffer from a lot of difficult experiences. The reason is that very less people know what things comes in sexual harassment it’s a stereotype that only physical touch is a sexual harassment whereas harassment can be even use foul language in front of someone but sadly none understand it here. It has become a very common trend of offices to use foul language and bad words even in the leading companies. The tragedy is that mostly the victims doesn’t speak, scared that they will lose their job or cannot go for court proceedings and heavy lawyers fee.

In 2010 the government of Pakistan executed new law with the name “Protection against harassment of women at work”. In order to make the work places and urban areas more secure for women, the government made is mandatory for every company, bus station, factory, organization , schools, and other workplaces to educate their employees about sexual harassment and post a circular on their main notice board so everyone can read it. According to this law which comes under the section of 509, the harasser can get a minimum of 3 years prison and $5000 penalty or both. This law empowered a lot of women who leave their families behind to earn money and live a better life. The law doesn’t only consider physical touch as harassment it also includes using foul languages, making dirty signs, cracking dirty jokes, working after office timings alone. For the first time the case of sexual harassment was treated under a proper law.

We need to educate more women about this law and become a shoulder to share their pain. Sexual harassment is one of crime in which the victim feels that he/she should be guilty whereas it’s different. Mostly harasser takes advantage of silence and takes their dirty missions to further levels. The empowerment and education of women and men in this regard is important. In my opinion every workplace and school should conduct some seminars or workshops on how to stay protected or how to deal with a harasser. Women should also be taught self defense. It will only end once the victim will stop considering itself guilty and make the harasser pay for what he did. Not only the government should play their part but also the civil society needs to pay more attention towards this matter. The civil society is one of the reasons of getting justice in countries like Pakistan, where injustice is a trend of fashion and it never goes out of fashion.

Khadija Ali and Naeem Ahmed, high court advocates and activists fight pro bono cases for women who become victim of sexual harassment. We need more people like them, we need more support to fight from this disease and to make a secure and rape free world. The public service messages about sexual harassment on media have also played its part to educate people about sexual harassment and its consequences. Above all we women need to stand up for it and talk for those who cannot speak, become voice of those who are unheard. No war can be won without unity and struggle and we can even set fire to the rain. Let the world know what women can do when they hold hands and fight for something together.

I dream of a Rape free world, A rape free culture, A death to vulture.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Voices of Our Future 2013 Assignments: Frontline Journals

Comments 5

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  • Yvette Warren
    Sep 13, 2013
    Sep 13, 2013

    You have opened up dialog about an issue that all societies are still attempting to address. Men and women are (and are supposed to be) sexually attracted to each other, but we still haven't come to agreement on the acceptable ways to admit our discomfort with these feelings. It often leads to making jokes about those things which make us uncomfortable. This is a very common way for men to exhibit their emotions.

    It is best to ask the bully to stop, admitting that we are uncomfortable, in a very non-emotional and professional tone. This should be done in front of those who witness the bullying. The workplace should have rules of conduct and dress that apply to all employees. There should be a process by which any who are interrupting the proper flow of work with their behaviors are reported to those who have power to address the issue in a professional manner.

    I know the pain of being sexually harassed. Men and women do these things to get attention. We make a mistake acting as if words and gestures are on the same level with physical harassment. Women must be taught how to handle signs of disrespect from those who have no power over us. We must not give them power by showing any emotion about their actions.

    A good way to do so is by acting like you don't notice or understand the words or gestures. Ignoring or asking the bully to stop, with no show of emotion, takes the "fun" out of bullying. Another way is to turn their "humor" back on them, but this takes a very quick wit and can often escalate the situation. If this method is used, it is best to have a group of like-minded people in on the plan before you implement it. It must also not be used as a way to humiliate or hurt, but as a way to have everyone see that this is simply like puppies nipping at each other. I have successfully employed all of these methods.

    I must disagree with you about the males having low self-esteem. Bullying is about power and most bullies already feel a great deal of (usually undeserved) power. They simply never feel that they have enough power until they destroy others.They can't MAKE us feel ashamed or scared if we don't allow it. My rule is that anyone who is not supporting me in some way has no emotional or other power over me.

    Blessings to you. Yvette

  • Leigh Cuen
    Sep 19, 2013
    Sep 19, 2013

    Some sparkling sentences in this article jump off the page: "Let the world know what women can do when they hold hands and fight for something together." Great job. Thank you for writing about this important issue with such passion and grace.

  • Lisa Anderson
    Sep 20, 2013
    Sep 20, 2013

    Nice work! You spurred me to think about sexual harassment in the workplace and everyday life here. It's so important for women AND men to be educated and trained on this topic, as you said. I love how you illustrated a complex issue and pointed out the gray areas. This is how good journalism should be.

  • Sarah Whitten-Grigsby
    Sep 24, 2013
    Sep 24, 2013

    Dear Mahrukh Pasha,

    This is a powerful piece! Your passion regarding the issue of the sexual harassment of women -- whether by touch or verbal abuse, etc. -- is clear and strong. You give a great deal of information and suggest solutions and your ending -- the last sentence -- is terrific. Thank you for all your work, for your egalitarian approach (that men need to be empowered and educated, too) and for speaking up on behalf of women everywhere who are subjected to harassment in all its forms. With Support, Sarah
  • Mahrukh Pasha
    Sep 29, 2013
    Sep 29, 2013

    I'm really glad that all of you encourage my piece of writing, Sexual harassment is a very sensitive and important issue which is mostly been ignored because its considered bad and not ethical to talk about it. The tragedy of our society is that we can discuss the issues regarding politics and economical but when it comes to social or women issue we keep it out of our discussion because its too boring or controversial When we will be brave enough to talk and fight with our fear then only we shall be able to over come the challenges of our society specially the challenges women face.