What is harassment and what is Sexual Harassment?
Harassment is unwanted, unwelcome and rude behavior that makes you feel intimidated, victimized, uncomfortable, embarrassed, and threatened. It creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for employment, study or social life. When this includes unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, it is called Sexual Harassment.
Some of these unwanted behaviors are:
- Sexually explicit gestures like discomforting stares (sexual stares)
- Sexual hints/suggestions
- Leaning over and invading a person’s space. Deliberate physical contact, to which the individual has not consented or had the opportunity to object to.
- Hooting, sucking, lip-smacking and animal noises
- Sexist jokes and cartoons
- Displaying suggestive or pornographic material
Rape, molestation, incest etc are the most severe forms of sexual harassment.
Where does sexual harassment take place?
Sexual harassment can happen anywhere - in the street, at a club, at an interview, in a shop, school, college, bazaar, waiting at a red light, bus stop, restaurant, airport, hence any public place, and at work.
Do only Males harass Females?
No, females can sexually harass men as well, men can sexually harass other men, and women can sexually harass other women - there is no gender bias in harassers.
Are these incidents reported officially/formally?
In Pakistan these incidents are not reported, they are common happenings and each individual has their own way of dealing with it, but please do remember you are not alone.
Could harassment be my fault in any way? Am I responsible in some way?
If you think that any of your actions contribute to being harassed you might feel deep guilt at having brought the circumstances on yourself. You might blame yourself. Feeling guilty and blaming yourself only gives the harasser power.
It is important to remember that harassment doesn’t happen because you invited it! It is nothing you did, wore, or said that invited harassment.
Its okay to feel scared, angry and threatened and its okay to feel sad or angry about being picked on - but don’t feel responsible or blame yourself for it.
How can I deal with harassment?
- Do the unexpected. Name the behavior. Whatever he/she has just done, say it, and be specific. Don’t water it down. For example: Why did you brush up against by breast?, ‘I don’t like that kind of talk’, ‘Please keep your hands to yourself’
- Hold the harasser accountable for his/her actions. Don’t make excuses for them; don’t pretend it didn’t really happen. Take charge of the encounter and let people know what they did. Privacy protects harassers, but visibility undermines them.
- Make honest, direct statements. Speak the truth (no threats, no insults, no obscenities, no appeasing verbal fluff and padding). Be serious, straightforward, and blunt.
- Demand the harassment stop.
- Make it clear that all women and men have the right to be free from sexual harassment. Objecting to harassment is a matter of principle.
- Stick to your own agenda. Don’t respond to the harasser’s excuses or diversionary tactics.
- His/Her behavior is the issue. Say what you have to say, and repeat it if they persists.
- Reinforce your statements with strong, self-respecting body language: eye contact, head up, shoulders back, a strong, serious stance. Don’t smile. Timid, submissive body language will undermine your message.
- Respond at the appropriate level. Use a combined verbal and physical response to physical harassment.
- End the interaction on your own terms, with a strong closing statement, “You heard me. Stop!”
- Do not use abusive language.
Extreme forms of sexual harassment can also lead to RAPE.
Is there anyone in Pakistan doing something about this issue?
The Karachi-based organization Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) raises awareness and provides legal aid to (women victims) of sexual harassment.
There is a comprehensive Code for Gender Justice at the Workplace. For details see