Federal Ombudsperson asks victims of workplace harassment to raise voice for justice

The office of Students' Advisor of the University of Karachi in collaboration with the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Fospah) of the government of Pakistan arranged an awareness seminar on protection against harassment (Workplace Harassment Act) at the Chinese Teachers Memorial Auditorium on Monday.

Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Fauzia Viqar during her address said that only 21 percent of the total population of females in the country are working, but now as the inflation ratio has increased to more than 35 percent, the proportion of the working women must be increased.

She said that Pakistani females should go out for work because it has become very difficult to rely on a single income and almost impossible to meet the expenses.

While giving a reference to research conducted in 2018, Viqar shared that around 80 percent of college-going girls in Punjab, who use public transport, have admitted to experiencing harassment. She mentioned that this is a huge number, and reflects our social problem. She urged that this issue must be resolved on an emergency basis.

She informed the audience that another study highlighted that 57 percent of working women have faced harassment in the workplace. According to her, this is a reported figure and there are chances that more females have gone through the same experience at least once in their lives.

Fauzia Viqar mentioned that working women mostly face harassment during the initial stage of their professional career, or working in junior positions, or at the time of joining organizations. She observed that to ensure the implementation of laws related to harassment, it is important that the affected people should raise their voices against this nuisance.

She advised that people who are around the victim and have proper information related to harassment matters should also raise their voices to prevent such incidents.

KU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi said that the University of Karachi strictly follows the policy of zero tolerance regarding harassment. He informed the audience that he has already directed the KU Harassment Committee that strict actions should be taken against the person(s) involved in this nuisance as they do not deserve any leniency at all.

He observed that the affected person should not remain silent and name and shame people who have created the scene. He mentioned that remaining quiet over this matter will strengthen the accused persons.

Dr Khalid Iraqi shared that education and employment are the basic rights of every citizen of Pakistan. He believed that women would play a big role in the development of our society and the improvement of the country’s economic situation by using their abilities.

Earlier, KU Convener of Harassment Committee Professor Dr Anila Amber Malik while shedding light on the aims and objectives of the committee said that whenever they receive any information about an incident related to harassment, they engage all its members and start recording victims and accused’s statements as well as analyzing the motive behind the issue. She shared that during their investigation they give confidence to the complainant and also allow the accused to provide proof if he/she thinks that false allegations were labelled against him/her. Both of them are provided with equal opportunity to maintain transparency.

She added that a complete report is sent to the administration and even presented in the Syndicate if needed for the implementation of the committee’s recommendations. On this occasion, Fospah shared a detailed presentation before a question and answer session.