Mamarha Afridi

PESHAWAR: Such is the bent of mind of society that most of the times the harassment victims, rather than the harassers, had to suffer the most in the life after harassment incidents.

Adiba, 23, who was working with an organisation, said while talking to TNN that her boss used to give extra attention and time to her and arrange unnecessary meetings which were off course not about the office work. She said the boss would regularly ask her about her personal life. She said she had to carry on her job being sole bread-winner as her brothers were too young and her father was paralysed.

“The head of the organisation used to be very soft towards me, but one day he was very angry. He assigned a lot of work to me and ordered not to leave the office before the work is finished. Almost everyone left office. He asked me to submit my work. When I entered his office he held my hands and asked for sexual favour. As I tried to run from his office he tried to hold me and I got some scratches on my neck. When I went home, my married elder sister noticed the scratches on my neck and I told her the whole story. I am still feeling guilty for being harassed,” she said.

56 harassment complaints filed in KP

Many victims of sexual harassment have filed complaints under the KP Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace (Amendment) Act, 2018. Rakhshanda Naz, a social activist and women rights defender, is heading the Ombudsperson office in KP. Born in Quetta, Rakhshanda has been fighting for protection of women’s rights for the last 25 years.

“On January 02, 2019, the KP government selected me in the cabinet meeting and on January 22, 2019, I was appointed as Ombudsperson KP through a notification,” Rakhshanda said while talking to TNN.

She said a total 56 complainants have been reported to the Ombudsperson Secretariat in KP.

No complaint filed by women from merged districts

Rakhshanda said no woman from merged tribal districts has filed harassment case since her taking over of the office. Abira, a victim of sexual harassment, said she doesn’t want to file harassment case. “The more people know about this, the more problems I will be facing in my life,” she said, adding that she will be the one who will suffer being a victim.

Girls like Abira are not only sexually harassed at workplace but even inside home. One of the girls, Ayesha, 18, from tribal districts, told TNN that about one year ago, she was sexually abused by her elder cousin.

“I am studying in a government college, but I do not know where to go to file a case after such happenings. But I believe my culture will not support me if I filed a case. I will be pointed and discussed in derogatory manner after that,” she said.

Cybercrimes on the rise

Harassment is not always physical, as cybercrime is also effecting this generation. Shabana, 20, said she used Facebook and post her pictures on her account. She said a guy edited her pictures inappropriately and sent it to her father to blackmail him. She said the blackmailer demanded Rs500,000 and her father arranged the money by taking a loan.

“My uncle suggested my father to report the case with Cybercrime Wing. My father refused by saying what if the accused shared those pictures, it would be hard for him to live peacefully thereafter,” she said.

“In our cases, FIRs have been lodged and we do fellow ups,” said Rakhshanda.

No data about harassment cases in merged districts available

Dr Noreen Naseer, women rights activist from Kurram, said while talking to TNN that one cannot find data regarding sexual harassment cases in erstwhile Fata.

“The reason is that there was not even a single law to protect the women. Women are unaware about filing cases. Moreover, they are not brave enough to speak up because of the fear of honour killing. Even in KP, women rarely want to file cases because of fear of defamation.

Dr Noreen said the laws of KP have been extended to merged districts and now women can go and file cases in courts.

Abira said harassment is widespread, but women are not taking risk by filing sexual harassment cases. “It hurts me a lot to seek a victim in pain and the harasser going unpunished,” she said.

Note: The names of victims have been changed in the article upon their request.