A controversy over the treatment of a female employee at the hands of her male colleague at Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration (IBA) has opened a debate over harassment at the workplace. In fact, no place is safe in the country for the womenfolk and if anyone stands with the victim, he or she has to face wrath of wrongdoers and their supporters. Once again, it was the social media that proved its worth by pointing out violence against a woman that led to massive protests against the administration of the campus. Kudos to the student who has waged a battle against the prevailing system of injustice and faced the penalty of expulsion for standing by his principles. The incident at the IBA highlights the sorry state of affairs regarding the status of women in our society that is abounding with gender discrimination at all levels. In some cases, a woman is not even safe in her own home. The latest episode of harassment at IBA has reignited a debate on treatment of females in some part of the society. The unjust act is the result of a patriarchal mindset towards existence of women in the society. Violation against women’s rights is widespread and exists in various forms, be it domestic violence and abuse, sexual abuse and harassment, acid attacks, honour killings, restricted freedom of movement to downright barring of women from casting their votes in the elections. There is an urgent need to introduce a law against this menace. Strict punishments should be outlined for perpetrators, and the condition of forgiving the culprit should be eliminated. Loopholes that allow culprits to get away without any consequences should be addressed by the authorities concerned.
More than the implementation of law, there is a need to change attitudes of Pakistan’s patriarchal society where the mistreatment of women is considered a norm. Women are made a ‘symbol of honour’ for menfolk in their families. The attitudes develop right from their childhood as parents instruct their children to follow certain norms that propagate superiority of males in the society. There is blatant endorsement of the notion of male superiority and women being second-class citizens – disposable and dispensable. Although the implementation of stringent laws is necessary to curtail the practice, the change needs to come at the fundamental level to rid Pakistan of this evil against women. Still there are certain measures that can be done personally and collectively to ameliorate violence against women. There is a need to increase general awareness about the extent and nature of the problem. It should be discussed widely. The government needs to adopt zero tolerance policy towards heinous crimes committed against women, and all crimes must be reported to the law enforcement agencies for prompt action. Victims should seek support from authorities concerned, and need to show courage to confront any injustice. Men should make a commitment to never physically mistreat women, and that there is no apathy shown to crimes against women. There is a need to change the mindset regarding the treatment of women in society. Ending widespread violence against women must be among nation’s highest priorities. Until that happens, Pakistan would not ever be able to have a truly civilised society.