Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Sexual Harassment Among Women in Marginalized Society

Despite claims of all major successive governments to promote religious tolerance and to bring an end to discrimination in Pakistan, the country's minorities are still going through different types of tests, including sexual harassment, forced conversion, religious discrimination; lack of education, higher rates of infant mortality ratio and fewer job opportunities.  A study of minority women in Pakistan reveals the awful facts.

A recent report that speaks about sexual harassment in the segments of marginalized society exhibits a horrific picture. The report says that as many as 74 percent  of the minority women have encountered sexual harassment  in 2011-2012, where 43 percent women complained of religious discrimination at jobs, educational institutions and in the community at large. The report also says that 23 percent minority girls (Hindu –Christianity) were forced to learn Islamic education in the absence of an alternative subject.

Research shows that 45 percent of minority women were found to be lower in status than their national counterparts in a better economic setting. The living (housing, civic facilities) and economic conditions of women, assessed through incomes, savings, health, education also placed minority women on the margins of social and economic development.

Sexual harassment in Educational Institutions:

According to research, sexual harassment in education institutions range from touching, blowing whistles, and sharing vulgar jokes. So much so that harassment is not considered as crime but recreation in many part of the country. School and college-going girls who stand at Bus stops for transport are the worst affected. Scores of cases have been reported unfolding the heinous of teachers, lecturer in schools, colleges and universities who exert undue influence by threatening to withhold marks in the final term. Poor girls who find no alternative, fall prey to such sex starved creatures.

Sexual Harassment at work Place

The ratio of women to men working in offices or other places is very low. Though the  state government has set fixed quota of women in order to encourage them to work, many women are reluctant to join the organization. A recent survey shows that 46 percent of the total women refused to join office because they feared of sexually harassed while 36 percent did not join because parents did not allow them. The research, which was based on interviews of minority women, was led by Jennifer Jag Jivan and Mr Jacob while it was assessed by three prominent minority women, MNA Asiya Nasir, Ernestine C. Pinto and Pushpa Kumari, with the coordination of Sobia John. The study shows discrimination stemming from the Constitution of Pakistan, Regulation Hudood, blasphemy law, personal law and policy and analysis of teaching and the effects of discrimination, suggested practical improvements and institutional conditions for better integration of women and protection of their rights. Highlighting a comprehensive review of laws and policies to eradicate discrimination and gender violence, the study noted that the lack of official data on minorities could actually help civil society and government to evaluate the development and interventions to improve conditions and bring minority women towards mainstream.

By Ashfaq Siyal

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