As the #MeToo movement progresses and provides people with courage to come and speak up about their experiences, one of the many questions that arises in the minds of people is how they can be helpful and be better allies to the victims. While we know that the only person responsible for committing sexual harassment and assault is the perpetrator, we are all capable of looking out for each other’s safety. We are not implying that you should put yourself in a dangerous situation, but there are plenty of ways to intervene — and a lot of good reasons to do so.
The Hollaback! Movement developed the five D’s to help us take appropriate steps in case we are a bystander in a sexual harassment situation; namely:
Whereby you can directly call out the behaviour or directly address a situation.
You can create an interruption to stop the incident.
Find an appropriate third party to intervene, such as a supervisor or HR in case such an incident happens at work.
If you cannot intervene due to your own safety or the situation, you can offer acknowledgement and empathy and help. You can also confront the harasser later.
Sometimes, it may be best to document the incident. If you are able to record an incident or jot down details, be sure to follow up with the victim. However, do NOT share anything without the victim’s consent.
It is no secret that unfortunately, women face thousands of such incidents, here in Pakistan and often are hesitant to speak out due to fear of judgement, concern for their safety and lack of support. We got in touch with Beenish Zia, a legal associate at the Asma Jehangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS) to help us understand the steps that can be taken if we witness someone being harassed.
Call the 24/7 helpline at 1043:
Set up in August 2014, the Punjab Women’s Helpline is a toll free helpline service that allows women to register complaints, obtain advice concerning their basic rights as well as allows inquiry about their legal right concerning divorce, marriage, inheritance, harassment and numerous other issues.
You can register complaints against state organizations and individuals. These complaints also include bureaucratic hurdles in registering FIRs or un-cooperation of officials.
Share the incident with someone as soon as possible:
It is advised to share the incident of harassment with someone as soon as possible because it helps to make the case stronger. That person is then considered a legitimate witness in the eyes of the court and legal authorities.
Report the incident:
You are encouraged to report the incident to the Inquiry Committee at your workplace. You can always report to the HR. If there is no such unbiased body, you can report to the provincial ombudsperson appointed by the state.
Go to the police to get an FIR registered. In case of online harassment, the incident can be reported to the FIA at firstname.lastname@example.org
The digital rights foundation have also launched a Cyber Harassment Helpline which can be reached at 0800-39393 or email@example.com
Remember, the Pakistan Penal Code provides in section 509 that an act of sexual harassment, wherever it may occur is a criminal offence.
Record the incident:
If you witness someone being harassed, try to record it somehow via pictures or video or jot down as many details as possible. It will help with the victim come forward.
It is our duty as responsible citizens and decent human beings to provide our utmost support and facilitation in any event of sexual harassment.