Journey of Pakistan’s sexual harassment law captured in documentary

— Dawn/FileISLAMABAD: “A large number of women face sexual harassment at work and leave their jobs rather than complaining about it. Women should speak up against sexual harassment because silence exacerbates the problem,” said Dr Fouzia Saeed at the launch of a documentary titled I was not alone based on her struggle for the promulgation of the law against sexual harassment.

The documentary was made by non-governmental organisation (NGO) World Movement for Democracy (WMD) and was launched in collaboration with the NGO, Mehergarh, at Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) on Monday.

WMD identified three individuals who had done outstanding work for the protection of human rights and highlighted their struggles and achievements in three documentaries.

Dr Fouzia said that although the law against sexual harassment was made in 2010, a large section of the population was unaware about the law and its implications.

I was not alone highlights one woman’s struggle for promulgation of law

“If we raise awareness about this law and join hands to work together for its implementation, no one can stop us from working and living our lives with dignity,” she said.

In the 20-minute long documentary, Dr Fouzia discusses how she used to work at the United Nations when a colleague sexually harassed her.

She was quiet about this for three years. When she finally decided to speak up, she found out that some of the other women at the office were facing the same problem. Eventually 11 women filed a sexual harassment case against their colleague.

This proved to be a turning point in Dr Fouzia’s life and the beginning of her 10-year struggle for the promulgation of the law against sexual harassment.

As Dr Fouzia filed the case against her colleague on December 22, the then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, declared the day as National Working Women’s Day.

Representative of the WMD Zafarullah Khan said this documentary was an attempt to capture the movement for making a law against harassment. Success stories should be shared and exchanged to motivate others.

Speaking at the event, Member of National Assembly (MNA) Nafisa Shah said people often say that women have four roles - mother, daughter, wife and sister - but this is incorrect.

“A woman can be a good manager, worker, politician and social activist. We have role models like Malala Yousafzai and Dr Fouzia Saeed. We had the youngest woman prime minister in a Muslim country,” she said.

“Women should come out to work in greater numbers as there are few women in jobs today. For example, women are only 0.5 per cent of the police force,” she said.

MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said the documentary inspired him as it showed that anything was possible.

“I have been struggling for Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act since 2002. I believe that one day the act will pass. Dr Fouzia has also supported me in struggle against forced conversions,” he said.

Retired Senator Col Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said women were a majority in Pakistan and this majority must be given their rights. He said that it was unfortunate that many senators opposed the sexual harassment act.

“Senators would blame women and say it’s inappropriate clothing that invites harassment,” he said. Former provincial minister from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Sitara Ayaz, from Awaami National Party said as the first woman minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, she faced many problems. “But only women can bring true change,” she added.

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