85 percent of Pakistani Women face harassment of different kinds on a routine basis at various public places throughout the city, most importantly during traveling via public transport. These views were expressed by Prof Dr. Khalida Ghaus, Managing Director, Social Policy and Develop Centre (SPDC) while addressing the interactive seminar on the topic “The protections against harassment of women at workplace”.
“It is known to all that we have full-fledged procedure of law with a view to filing complain against cases pertaining to harassment but women usually feel frightened to report cases of such nature which certainly becomes a taboo in our society”, she added.
Social activists Advocate Zia Ahmed Awan said that in our society discrimination starts even before the child is born. Prof Dr Sirajuddaula Syed, Senior Pathologist, talking to the audience said that we are living in a society where females are handicapped and can’t speak for their rights.
Karachi topping the list for sexual harassment
Last year Karachi was ranked as the second most dangerous city in the world for women with sexual violence being reported highest amongst all Muslim countries. Also, GIWPS had placed Pakistan fourth amongst the most dangerous country in the world for women after Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. It is shocking to see Islamic states topping in the list of women violence and sexual harassment. However, the fact that women in Pakistan are constant victims privately and publicly cannot be overruled.
Sexual Harassment in Pakistan
According to a research conducted by UNISON, here are some extremely shocking facts:
- More than 50% of working women face sexual harassment in Pakistan.
- A total of 24,119 cases of violence against women were reported during 2008-2010, among of which only 520 workplace harassment cases were filed. Some of the country’s biggest institutes as well as companies have failed to tackle this problem.
- The country’s largest varsity, Karachi University, has notoriously failed to curb the flow of sexual harassment cases.
- The country’s largest airline, PIA, was sued by a hostess over sexual harassment.
- A talented fast bowler, Haleema Rafique, ended up taking her own life due to the same issue.
In 2013, the situation was even more harrowing:
- 7,733 cases of violence against women were reported in the media.
- 1,516 were murdered while 472 were killed for reasons of ‘honor’.
In most cases Pakistani women don’t report cases of sexual harassment, as they are afraid of the resulting embarrassment they stand to face at the hands of the society. Moreover, it’s not easy for a woman to prove harassment as it demands witnesses and evidence. Other factors for not reporting include the fear of losing jobs or being stigmatised as a harassment victim.
Pakistan ranked 3rd most dangerous country for women in the world
We may make endless claims that our Pakistani culture and religion respect women, however, the deep dark truth is that there is no respect, not even at a superficial level. Our upbringing is such that we quietly align ourselves with the patriarchal structure without daring to question it. But as a proud Pakistani, now we can definitely boast of achieving the coveted feat of the 3rd most dangerous country for women in the world. Just to feel a little better we rank third from the last i.e., 150/153 as per the recent GIWPS rankings. Well nothing new, except for squashing it and terming it as propaganda against Pakistan or Muslim women worldwide this study too will be buried soon again in our minds.
Shameful statistics which should be an immediate eye opener:
- As many as 1,000 women killed annually in Pakistan in so-called “honor killings”.
- 5% of girls are married before the age of 18.
- 70-80% of Pakistani girls and women face forced marriages.
- Families defending their “honor” attack women with acid to disfigure them, stone them to death, or simply beat them.
- 90% of Pakistani women face domestic violence.
- Female foeticide, child marriage, high levels of trafficking, domestic servitude, rape and other forms of sexual exploitation plague over 85% Pakistani women.
- Up to 50 million Pakistani girls are missing and 100 million others trafficked.
- One in 11 face chances of dying in childbirth.
- 30,000 women die every year in childbirth because they do not have a right to seek medical care without permission from husband’s families.
- 77% of Pakistan’s women are illiterate.
- Only 24 percent of Pakistani women are employed, which depicts the negative behavior of men for women working in organizations.
- While 73 % of Pakistani men do not accept the ideology that women should work outside of the home.
- Pakistani women are only schooled for five years on average.
- Inequality between the male-female birth ratio shows that Pakistani parents continue to have a ‘son bias’
Pakistan doesn’t really have a good reputation when it comes to women rights. Usman Awan, founder of Step Forward Pakistan, working for women rights and combating sexual harassment in Pakistan, says he has observed many harassment issues in workplaces, educational institutes as well as public transport which is his reason to fight against this immoral crime. According to him, in 80 percent of the harassment incidents, the oppressor takes advantage of women’s’ helplessness, vulnerability and the fact that they don’t raise their voices. Girls studying in universities and colleges refrain from communicating such issues to their parents for the fear of their educational career being jeopardized. Many harassment victims are hushed down just because they are looked down upon in the society and no legal reports are filed. Most women are unaware of the fact that the law of Pakistan gives them full protection against sexual harassment.
Women in Pakistan need to demand change and challenge our political, social and religious institutions. It is high time we accept that women’s rights in Pakistan have failed because of our culture of intolerance and impunity. And we should stop boasting of it until we have no more cases of innocent Zainab or rebellious Qundal Baloch in Pakistan.