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Legislation yields results in a responsible society only 

01 Augustus 2010 12:30:03 nm

Legislation yields results in a responsible society only

By Abdul Rauf

By passing the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill 2010, the government has surely achieved a milestone in providing a better working environment to the female community. But legislation is just one step, not the last. It is an end of the beginning; the beginning of the end is more crucial. All depends on the answer to the question that how ready we are, as a society, to execute our social, moral and now legal responsibility to protect females against harassment at the workplace. The present social attitudes do not seem very encouraging.

A 28-year-old woman, working as a personal secretary in Blue Area, Islamabad, who is a victim of such harassment, states: “Being a woman I can judge the implied motive behind a man’s behaviour. My boss calls me in his office for some official work and makes me sit there, while, most of the times, his friends are also present in the room. It’s a terrible time to sit in front of those indecent eyes. Sometimes he gets too personal and says ‘things’ between the lines, suggesting a relation beyond the official sphere. I am in search of another job to get rid of all this.”

A question arises here that what other option a female has in such situations. Being a part of a family, she cannot take any step on her own. The fight against any sexual harassment depends on the support and attitude of the family.

“We can never tell such things to our family members; the first thing they would do is to make us quit the job. It is the easiest way out for families here, in all such cases a female has to abandon her education or quit the job,” said a 24-year-old female, working as a course coordinator on contract basis in a public sector university of Islamabad.

A woman working as a UDC at the Pakistan Post Office Head Office in Islamabad expressed the dilemma of working females in our society by saying: “A man can do anything in our society and would easily get away with it. But a female’s dignity and reputation is at stake in every situation. I do not know about laws but social punishment is exclusively for a female, in any case. How can we fight such things on our own, as we have no support?”

It is a sad fact that even family members of a victim do not extend the required support. Elders of a family have their own concerns regarding social pressures.

The mother of a 26-year-old victim, who had to resign as a receptionist of a dentist in order to escape sexual harassment by her boss, said: “My daughter cannot go to the police station to report such things. Who will marry her if someone knows that she has faced such an indecent behaviour?”

The chronic male-domination and norms of society have over-poisoned the beliefs against the image of women -- no matter what, man is supreme. A society where offenders proudly announce their crimes and victims feel ashamed and ruined though being innocent; where a woman is considered infected, cursed and guilty even if she is a victim of a brute, any legislation would be worth nothing. These double standards and hypocrisy should be treated first.

Every individual must come up with a sense of social responsibility to form a society that is civilised and cultured in its beliefs and behaviour. Our whole society is in dire need of significant social reforms. Educating people through media and all other available channels can help in refurbishing every single fibre of social behaviour, attitude and thinking. Without changing our social characters, no law can be implemented in its true spirit and till that time women will have to live with the ‘law of the jungle’ instead of the ‘law of the land’.