These 2 Young Activists are Empowering Pakistani Women Against Sexual Harassment

Pakistan doesn’t really have a good reputation when it comes to women rights. Some notable activists working for women rights in Pakistan include Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, the winner of two Oscars for her documentaries on honor killing and acid-attack victims; and Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Prize laureate for her work on female education.

The aforementioned two have been lauded all over the world for their efforts but they are not alone in their fight. Women from all backgrounds, from all over Pakistan, are embroiled in this fight for their rights. They may not get much spotlight, but they do their part regardless.

Enters StepPakistan

Let’s meet Step Forward Pakistan, founded by Usman Awan a social activist who aims to fight for positive cultural, moral and religious values of Pakistan.

According to Usman, he has observed many harassment issues in work places, educational institutes as well as public transport which is his reason to fight against this immoral crime. According to him, in 80 percent of the harassment incidents the oppressor takes advantage of womens’ helplessness, vulnerability and the fact that they don’t raise their voices.

Girls studying in universities and colleges refrain from communicating such issues to their parents for the fear of their educational career being jeopardized.

Many harassment victims are hushed down just because they are looked down upon in the society and no legal reports are filed. Most women are unaware of the fact that the law of Pakistan gives them full protection against sexual harassment.

It has become very crucial that efforts should be made to spread this awareness so that every single female gets to know what harassment really is and how to handle such issues by self protection and by the means of  law enforcement.

Meet Fatima Butt

In light of above mentioned situation, Usman joined hands with his friend Fatima Butt to start empowering Pakistani women against this crime.

Fatima Butt, who herself is a social activist working for women rights and combating sexual harassment in Pakistan. A lawyer by profession, Fatima has done Bachelors in Law (LL.B) and also holds a Masters degree in History from Punjab University.

fatima-butt

Fatima Butt, women rights activist

Even as a young girl, Fatima observed sexual harassment in society and refused to seal her lips. She decided to raise her voice against this silent crime faced by most women in Pakistan, as well as around the world.

Fatima says,

Being a girl, I know well about the mental torture that a woman endures due to unwanted glance and glare, touch, and unethical offers.

I saw many girls leaving universities and resigning from offices due to this issue but I dared to take a step against it and vowed to save girls suffering this mental torture.

In her university days, she staged and supervised different seminars to increase awareness about sexual harassment. Last year, Fatima proactively started working for women empowerment and also joined hands with Step Forward Pakistan in this noble cause, assisting them as a legal adviser.

Alongside that, she still finds the time to engage in many social activists to further her cause. She wants to eradicate sexual harassment against women at institutions and workplaces and promoting women rights awareness and has her own Facebook page, where she educates people on this issue.

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“The absence of women in different departments is a major cause of concern for young girls and their families regarding jobs, resulting in family-imposed restrictions,” she says. “Talented girls can’t utilize their talent despite having immense potential of taking part in the progress of the country.”

“Increase women empowerment, not the number of reprieve resignations!”

Fatima’s mission is to provide legal aid and state-level protection to women who are facing sexual harassment and can’t raise their voice due to one reason or another. She believes that proactive use of constitutional laws is necessary to change the society and the only way to do that is by handing out severe punishments to the ones guilty of sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment in Pakistan

According to a research conducted by UNISON in 2008, more than 50% of working women face sexual harassment in Pakistan. A total of 24,119 cases of violence against women were reported during 2008-10— among of which only 520 workplace harassment cases were filed (Parveen, 2010). Some of the country’s biggest institutes as well as companies have failed to tackle this problem.

The country’s largest varsity, Karachi University, has notoriously failed to curb the flow of sexual harassment cases while the country’s largest airline, PIA, was sued by a hostess over sexual harassment. A talented fast bowler, Haleema Rafique, ended up taking her own life due to the same issue.

In 2013, the situation was even more harrowing. 7,733 cases of violence against women were reported in the media. 1,516 were murdered while 472 were killed for reasons of ‘honor’.

The main problem here is that women don’t report cases of sexual harassment, afraid of the resulting embarrassment they stand to face at the hands of the society. Moreover, it’s not easy for a woman to prove harassment as it demands witnesses and evidence. Other factors for not reporting include the fear of losing jobs or being stigmatized as a harassment victim.


  • KMQ

    Yeh Step Forward Pakistan bhi Pakistan ko duniya main defame karne ke liye hi hai? Agar aisa hai tu is kaam ke liye Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy aur Malala Yousafzai kafi nahi they?

    • Ishtiaq

      KMQ aik Khan Sahab ne mujhe bataya tha k “sara waqat ka m******** hai Kutta Omelet kha raha hai”.
      Tou dost abhi aur bhi cheezian dekhnay ko milain gi. Just wait n watch. Woh incident abhi ziada purana nahi jis main University ki larkiyon ne blood spotted pads dewaroon pe tang diye thay k women impowerment hogi is se. Aur tou aur us main un k boyfriends ne bhi berh charh k hisa liya tha k women empowerment karo pads taang k. Ab woh pads apny gharon se laye tha ya kisi k chura k ya phir market se khareed k usko paan ki peek se laal kar k. Kyuin k woh saalay khod tou pads use karty nahi hongay.
      KMQ sir agay agay dekhiye hota hai kia. Aik dou din pehle Islamabad main women empowerment and freedom of thoughts ka aik amli muzahra bhi hua hai. One woman show. Tou yeh freedom hai bhai.

      • KMQ

        Agree dost, aur women empowerment ki ek aur tazza misal woh chai wala sahab hai :-)

    • Ger

      On one hand I want to agree with you. You’re mostly right, but these things do happen to women. It happened with a close family member of mine, and the perpetrator was the sector-in-charge of “Mazloom Qaumi Movement” (the one everyone’s trying to frame because of a “global conspiracy”; because everyone in Mazloom Qaumi Movement is an angel); not only did he repeatedly do it, he threatened my relative and knew he could get away scot-free because of his position as a mafia leader. Oh, and he’s still in the party.

      On the other, it’s way too easy to falsely accuse someone of sexual harassment or abuse. And the world almost always sides and sympathizes with the women. Don’t have a likable boss? Team up with female coworkers and accuse him of sexual abuse. It has happened before.

      Last but not least, these people never even mention male sexual abuse victims. It happens a lot more than you think but it’s never mentioned. In our society male sexual abuse victims are humiliated if they ever come out. If these hypocrites are really rooting for equality they should work to represent victims of both genders.

      What these two are doing isn’t exactly what’s needed here. But we do need some measure to fix this issue.

      • KMQ

        Couldn’t agree more with you brother. Mard ke victim hone ki tu yehi misal kafi hai.

        Agar ek mard kisi aurat ko chanta mare tu log kahainge ke kitna zalim hai mazloom aurat par hath uta raha hai.

        Aur agar ek aurat mard ko chanta mare tu log kahainge, acha kia zarror is mard ne koi galat harkat ki hogi.

        • Muhammed Ovais Alam

          Dil se awaaz aa rhi hai aap ki. Personal experience to nahi hai ye janab ka ?

          • KMQ

            Lolz, Nahi dost aisa koi tajarba tu nahi hua Allah Pak bachae :-)

            • Muhammed Ovais Alam

              Aameen ?

    • Hi KMQ, I am Usman Awan, President of Step Forward Pakistan. You know I am working for the cultural, moral and religious values of Pakistan. Go and check my profile how I stood against shirmeen and malala. I am not here to defame Pakistan but I am here to resolve issues, suggest solutions, empower pakistani women/Men against sexual harassment. So please check someone before spreading negativity against him. may ALLAH Bless you.

      • KMQ

        MashaAllah good to know you Muhammad Usman, if you are working on the causes you said then ALLAH Bless you. Go ahead and spread the good about Pakistan. And buddy I have not spread any negativity against you, I think you have missed the word ‘Agar‘ in my comment.

        Still if I hurt you, then I would like to apologize to you dost.

        • no way, I like your approach. INSHA ALLAH you will be happy from our work.

          • KMQ

            InshaAllah, Allah pak aap ke liye aasani kare. Aur jo koi bhi behtri ke liye kaam kar raha hai, Allah pak sab ka haami o nasir ho..

      • KMQ

        And one more thing to add, we are no one to spread any negativity to any one. only ALLAH

        Watu Izzu Man Tasha Watu Zillu Man Tasha

      • Kashif Surhio

        Hi Usman,

        It is good to know about you, but my question is, why you did not stand for high profile peoples who rapped women in recent days?
        You are also a well educated person, have you seen such types of incidents during your education? If yes then did you played the part of your role? If this thing is not happening in education system, not raising your voice against the right hands of MPAs/MNAs then what actually you are pointing here?

        • Yeah, first of all I am not here for interview. Secondly I am doing what can I do. I am not doing anything for any greed or something else, I am doing everything as my responsibility. Are you fulfilling your responsibilities ?

          • Ishtiaq

            tell us your responsibilities first, sure you are not here for an interview, but as you are up for this big cause, you should have guts to answer the simple question asked to you above by Kashif. on Contrary you started asking his responsibilities. You are the man who took this huge burden on your shoulders for empowerment of women, not the one who asked you question. so you better answer or don’t come up with these lame talks.

          • Ishtiaq

            n also tell us agar kisi women ko sexual harassment ka samna ho tou woh kia karey? aap se contact karey?

            • There are some strategies to deal with such issues. We have developed some strategies to resolve more than 70 percent cases on institutes and work places. we will share in our upcoming videos and articles soon. IA

          • Kashif Surhio

            To be honest, my personal responsibility is to protect any female working or studying around me.
            Secondly, you are obviously here for interview because you want others to support and any person with brain will not support you or any of your cause until you give satisfactory answers to his/her questions.
            Thirdly you said you have resolved about 70% of cases…common man I am a graduate from two different universities, have experience in Pakistan’s biggest IT industry of Karachi about 7 years in which I have worked with different big companies and all the big banks even at their premises but I have never seen any such type of case. May be my words hurt many peoples but we close friends always say k “pata nahi log q kehty hain k industry me larki asani se mil jati hy, humko to 12-15 saal ho gaye or koi safai karny wali bhi nahi mili to educated kahan se milegi”
            this statement itself is a big statement that there is no such type of thing in our industry or education system (at least to which I belong, and I am sure that hundreds of the readers of this URL also agree with me)

          • Kashif Surhio

            Then as I know that none of the activist or NGO can operate without financial and security related support and that’s the FACT
            Similarly you and miss Fatima can not this type of thing (specially when you say you have resolved 70% of cases in education and industry), your 70% statement looks very unreal keeping this fact in mind that suppose any type of harassment is done in any bank by AGM, GM, AVP, VP, or president level of persons then obviously you or myself can not do anything.

  • Engr. M Shariq Ahmed

    I 100% agree with KMQ. It is an easy way to get money and fame. I should be checked or stopeed.

  • Mian

    It’s all media perception against Pakistan. Women Rights in US and many European countries are much worse than Pakistan. We should open our eyes to evaluate whats going in world around us than blindly believing media reports.

    • What media perception? Are you mad. Go and ask any woman k 5 minute akely paidal chalna kitna mushqil hota. Maghrib, west hr baat me nikal aata yaha.

      • Mian

        After going through your NGO I understand the reason you negate me :) or may be I’m living in different Pakistan ;)

  • Orya Maqbool Jan

    “observed sexual harassment in society and refused to seal her lips”
    Bhye double-meaning baatein mat kiya karo. :)

    And btw, she doesn’t look like somewone would bother harassing.

    • Observing harassment mean observing in society. She was never be a victim because she is strong enough to take stand Sir. Secondly You are our ideal person. Don’t worry INSHA ALLAH Our ideology is same. empowering mean telling women what is harassment and how to stand if you are victim of it…. there is no negative empowerment involved.

  • Fahad J

    Aurtain barhana kapray pehnanay aur tun tun ke makeup kerna band ker dain aur workplace ko workplace samjhain hangout ka adda nahi tau sexual harrasment khud hi kam ho jaye ge. Aur kuch?

  • Nabil Naeem

    ے نبیؐ، اپنی بیویوں اور بیٹیوں اور اہل ایمان کی عورتوں سے کہہ دو کہ اپنے اوپر اپنی چادروں کے پلو لٹکا لیا کریں یہ زیادہ مناسب طریقہ ہے تاکہ وہ پہچان لی جائیں اور نہ ستائی جائیں اللہ تعالیٰ غفور و رحیم ہے (Al-Ahzab Verse 59)

    O Prophet, enjoin your wives and your daughters and the believing women, to draw a part of their outer coverings around them. It is likelier that they will be recognised and not molested. Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

  • Nabil Naeem

    And O Prophet, enjoin the Believing men to restrain their gaze and guard their private parts. This is a more righteous way for them: Allah has knowledge of what they do.

    مومن مردوں سے کہہ دو کہ اپنی نظریں نیچی رکھا کریں اور اپنی شرم گاہوں کی حفاظت کیا کریں۔ یہ ان کے لئے بڑی پاکیزگی کی بات ہے اور جو کام یہ کرتے ہیں اللہ ان سے خبردار ہے (An-Noor Verse 30)