Tanzeela Mazhar calls out the system for unfair treatment during pregnancy

Veteran journalist unable to appear in court due to pregnancy, judge warns of arrest

(Picture source - Twitter @Tanzeelamazhar)
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A complicated pregnancy did not deter a judge from pestering veteran journalist Tanzeela Mazhar to appear in court in connection with an ongoing defamation case brought forth by her alleged harasser in 2017.

In a series of tweets, Mazhar said that defamation cases were used discriminatorily against harassment victims after a judge ordered her to procure detailed evidence that she was pregnant and had a fractured foot due to which she would not appear for her court hearing. Mazhar exasperated that the judge was not satisfied with the evidence that clearly stated her due date as well and instead warned he would issue an arrest warrant if she was a no show. Mazhar added that she would not be bogged down by the ‘rotten system’ and would continue to fight till truth prevailed.

Since 2017, Mazhar has been involved in a defamation case, which was brought forth by her alleged harasser and colleague at Pakistan Television Network (PTV). The defamation case was slapped onto Mazhar after the anchor publicly came forward in 2017 against her alleged harasser, who she said made ‘unwelcome advances’ towards her in 2009.

Mazhar revealing her frustrations with the justice system when it came to harassment, wasn’t new. In 2017, she detailed her disappointment on Twitter about at an internal PTV inquiry committee that asked why she hadn’t quit when she was first harassed. Mazhar resigned a month after the committee dismissed her complaint.

Later in February 2020, Mazhar tweeted that the results of the 2017 committee were not formally shared with her till 2019. She added that she had challenged the report in front of the Federal Ombudsman Secretariat for Protection against Harassment.

The deployment of defamation cases against possible harassment victims is not novel to Mazhar’s case. As several women came forward in Pakistan’s iteration of the international Me-Too movement and brought forth harassment complaints against their aggressors, a counter movement in the form of defamation cases also rose in Pakistan’s courts.

Singer Meesha Shafi and artist Leena Ghani are just two high profile examples of women involved in defamation cases after they came forward against their accused harasser, singer Ali Zafar in 2018.