By Saddia Mazhar
Islamabad, February 4 (newsin.asia): It was indeed the happiest moment for Raheela when she received an audition call from a news channel head office in Islamabad. The Human Resource Manager called her for an interview and an audition the next day. She reached on time and filled a form.
Raheela was ambitious and motivated. But after meeting the HR Manager she realized that she will have to compromise her self- respect. The Manager bluntly said that he was more interested in “her” than her “journalistic abilities”.
When Raheela approached the higher management of the news channel and lodged a complaint, she realized that all media gurus stand together to safeguard the culprit.
Sexual harassment is not uncommon in Pakistan but as legal experts have reminded us repeatedly, few victims file a complaint either with the police or with the Human Rights Department.
The reasons for this are many but lack of awareness on the legal options available and fear of social exposure and scandal are perhaps the most important.
“One of the most important things to do after an incident is to write down what happened, what was said or touched, who did it, whether anyone was around to witness what happened, where you were, what the time was etc.,” said Shad Begum a women’s rights activist.
Understanding what is happening with you may help when taking up the issue of harassment at the workplace. Though harassment is common, we can’t see any quick reaction from the government and authorities after it is brought to their notice. And later while it comes to investigation, the authorities blame the women for it. Why so?
The total number of registered harassment cases against women at the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women (FOSPAH) was 432, in year 2018-2019. 158 cases were from the federal capital, Islamabad; 152 were from Punjab; 56 were reported from Sindh; 34 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; 12 from Baluchistan and 2 from Federally Administered Tribal Agency (FATA).
WhatsApp and facebook are the worst sources of trouble when it comes to online harassment. According to a report of the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), the toll-free helpline (0800-39393) received a total of 2,781 complaints from December 1, 2016, to November 30, 2018, with an average of 91 calls each month.
Half of all calls came from the most populous province, Punjab, 57%. 18% came from Sindh; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (5%); Balochistan (2%); Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (1%c) and Islamabad (5%).
The report noted that 59% of the calls were made by women, and 41% were from men. However, it added, several men were calling on behalf of women. In terms of age distribution, 21% were young — between the ages of 21 and 25..
In terms of platforms being used for online abuse, the report found that a majority of the complaints were about harassment on Facebook. According to the report, 660 of the complaints (29%) related to Facebook.
Recently, however, the helpline experienced an influx of calls relating to mobile-based scams that prey on the trust of individuals on Whatsapp. Cases regarding the messaging app had risen from 2.6% to 9.5% in the past six months (with the total number of cases rising from 29 to 220).
According to DRF founder Nighat Dad: “Our callers have reached out to us from far-flung areas of the country which goes to show that the negative use of online tools has impacted lives equally. Our aim for the coming year is to increase our capacity and reach out to a wider audience so that the internet can be a safe space for all.”
The report called for investigation officers and prosecutors to be trained in cybercrime laws, internet governance, criminal procedures and trauma counselling.
“At least 33% of the investigation officers and prosecutors should be women and the entire staff of the National Response Center for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) should be given training in gender sensitivity.”
The Federal Ombudsman Kashmala Tariq said that when she took office, there were 5 cases a month, now the number has grown to 60.
“Every institution has a harassment department, which can file cases. In case of harassment, parents are afraid of a scandal about their daughters. So they don’t complain. But we have to eliminate such fears,” Tariq added.