Problems in traditional and developing societies for women seem never ending. Today, when we can finally celebrate the presence of a law against sexual harassment at workplace in force and women embracing practical life more than ever, the vulnerability of women to this obnoxious crime has increased manifold. Firstly, this is because women are thronging into the realms of practical life and are generally ahead of males in their pursuit of higher education. Secondly, patriarchal system is our predominant social setup, which not only limits men to engage in immoral and inhuman, intimidating acts against women but also allows them the privilege to blatantly deny the existence of these injustices that nearly every woman faces at some point in her life.Talking of workplace harassment, many people quote the prevalence of this practice in Western states too where societies are open and gender equality is a common norm. However, what they tend to forget is the presence of strict laws that regulate workplace environment in West. Laws are not the only factors that control this heinous activity to occur, because without being enforced in full spirit, their value would be reduced to mere piece of writing. Instead, what makes a potential sophisticated perpetrator to think twice about his intentions to victimize a woman in West is the strict implementation of workplace harassment laws in place. Apart from that, what encourages women to pursue their pleas against insecure workplace environment is the liberal composition of societies in West, where people generally do not look down upon the victim. Though, some rape cases and molestation do go unreported in Western states, the situation there is still quite better than in developing nations where many working women lack awareness about sensitivity of the issue.
In several cases, women relate harassment to unwelcomed sexual advances only whereas it extends beyond that. Verbal abuse, discouraging remarks about one’s gender and creating a hostile workplace environment or intimidating a person to provide favors against his will, reminding him or her of dreadful consequences if they fail to comply also come within the ambit of harassment. Forcing an employee to work against his/her will, bullying of juniors by their seniors also constitute harassment but less awareness exists among people especially women, on this front. Even if they realize that they are being harassed, they lack confidence and resources to endeavor against day to day prejudice they undergo.
*Bilal, who works for a television channel has repeatedly tried to quit his current organization in order to join others that offer him an increased salary and other perks but so far he has failed to do so. The reason he provides for this is “the fear of financial and TRPs losses and that his employers would have to bear if he appears on screen from a different television channel.” According to Bilal, he had secretly finalized job agreements with his employers-to-be several times but couldn’t join them because of the high-level contacts of his current employers who interfere in every organization he intends to move and then things never work out. Bilal is enlightened that his current intimidating employers are capitalizing on his need for a job since they know his family would suffer if he is rendered jobless which he says, “I can’t afford to risk.” Seven years of unsatisfying job experience has brought slight changes in Bilal’s life. “The situation would have been far more better had I been working somewhere else, but they wouldn’t let me go and the day I leave, they’ll effort exhaustively to make sure I don’t get another job”, says Bilal.
Workplace harassment is a phenomenon that is continuously changing with time. It is not only limited to women or sexual harassment but stretch beyond that. With a surge in overall crime and terrorism rate in Pakistan and deteriorating law and order situation, it has been made relatively easier for anyone to fix their workplace tensions through horrific offenses such as involving criminal gangs in between. The weaker party suffers the most for if their life is spared, constant threats follow. Recently, son of a renowned Dawn staffer, Abbas Jalbani was gunned down following a series of workplace harassment by a group of influential men who interfered in his domain of work. Rafique Jalbani, the deceased, was the project manager of Nur Goth Project, a Pakistan Medical Association initiative to construct 100 houses for the flood victims of Sindh. Rafique resisted attempts of some high-ranking colleagues to illegally occupy houses of this welfare residential project meant to accommodate Sindh IDPs. Local and family sources quote ‘continuous harassment and tormenting’ of Rafique by his peers and seniors, forcing him to quit his job a few months ago. However, Rafique had successfully managed to acquire support of the poor IDPs in his time in service who considered him as their knight in shining armor which emerged fatal for the 35-year old, who was shot to death recently in Thatta.
State patronage of criminals is a trend that needs to be abolished if justice is to prevail in Pakistan. Workplace harassment is taking an ugly facet in Pakistan where we already have an abundance of acid attack, rape and murder victims. Sadly, the figures are multiplying with every passing day with no improvement, even though the laws are there.