In my capacity as an advisor (legal) at the Federal Ombudsperson for the Protection Against Harassment at the Workplace, I have had the unique experience of sitting on cases wherein various women and men came to the forum for the redressal of their complaints against individuals who have purportedly harassed them at work. I have seen cases brought mostly by women against their superiors who have either created very hostile work environments or have sought to demand sexual favours from the women in their office outrightly. One particular case that comes to mind is when a postmaster of some post office in a rural area had used his peon to deliver messages to a lady clerk working in the post office. As per the lady, the peon would insist that her life would be a lot simpler if she agreed to their boss’ demands otherwise she would suffer consequences. The lady internally made a complaint, but the inquiry officer appeared to be in collusion with her boss and threatened her to withdraw the complaint. The lady stayed brave and brought the complaint to us, and we listened to her case and took appropriate action against the man. What complicates the waters is when the complaint is brought against more powerful offenders. Such people have better lawyers who can then create bigger problems to spike the administration of justice It is an unfortunate reality to face that these instances occur, and we mostly have to rely on the bravery of such women to bring these matters to us. Yet these are still manageable in the sense that once they come to our attention, we can take action. What complicates the waters is when the complaint is brought against more powerful offenders. Such people have better lawyers who can then create bigger problems to spike the administration of justice. It is these spikes that we need to pay attention to and vanquish from our systems because harassment cannot be the amusement for the powerful at the expense of the weak. It would probably come as no surprise to most people that most lawyers advise the use of a mechanism in law called stay orders. Stays have been an ubiquitous part of our legal system since time immemorial, predominantly to be used as a defence against the overarching and potentially abusive power of the executive. In recent times, it has been creatively used as a sword by enterprising lawyers who wish to ascertain an advantage for their clients by indefinitely delaying a case. These stays are predominantly the spikes used in our courts to delay, frustrate and stall the process. A case was brought by a lady against her employer bank. This case had gone on for a year, in a court required to conclude a case in 60 days. They had acquired a stay order from the Lahore High Court. They did so by challenging the jurisdiction of my court to hear the complaint. This should not be a concern as according to the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010, by which this court was established, our jurisdiction extends to the entirety of Pakistan. However, the lawyers used a judgment passed by the Honourable Lahore High Court, which has sought to limit our territorial jurisdiction, by deciding that we have no jurisdiction over provincial cases. With this stay, the bank’s lawyers attained their desire to stall the proceedings and wear out the woman who had complained. This is the sole cause of immense frustration and bitterness towards a system already infamous over its inability to provide justice to the people it is meant to serve. The judgment of the Lahore High Court needs to be challenged in the Supreme Court, yet no lawyer is brave enough to do so. Harassment is yearning for a legal definition, appropriate to its significance. Globally, and as part of our understanding, protection against harassment is an inalienable human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a fundamental guiding document on human rights, safeguards the life, liberty and security of all human beings Harassment is yearning for a legal definition, appropriate to its significance. Globally, and as part of our understanding, protection against harassment is an inalienable human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a fundamental guiding document on human rights, safeguards the life, liberty and security of all human beings. Similarly, Article 14 of the Constitution of Pakistan safeguards the dignity of man. Further, Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code specifically states that insulting the modesty of women or causing sexual harassment is a crime, punishable with imprisonment from three years or fine up to Rs. 500,000, or both. Yet, unfortunately, as much as our people vow and affirm that we defend our virtues greater and with more passion than any other, and that we respect our women more than the repugnant sexual deviants of the West when brought to face with the reality of this subject matter, they are deeply ‘uncomfortable’. Almost everyone proclaims that they come from an honourable, dignified family, as they attempt to subvert an accusation brought against them, assuming that this immediately exonerates them from such ‘uncomfortable’ accusations. Similarly, the Honourable High Court of Lahore, in the judgment mentioned earlier, decided that harassment is a simple trivial matter of ‘social welfare’, instead of being rooted in fundamental human rights. Social welfare, a cursory Google Search will inform you, is the domain of setting up schools and hospitals, among other things, for the welfare of the citizens of Pakistan. Does that have any correlation with harassment? No. So why is harassment suddenly a matter of social welfare instead of your fundamental rights? Because, it is a complicated, uncomfortable subject: a subject everyone hopes would go away. Unfortunately, we, in the eastern hemisphere, are ill-equipped and uncomfortable when conversing about any subject that involves sexuality. Or the abuse of it, or most importantly the advantage that the silence on such a matter can give to those wishing to enjoy their liberty to abuse those weaker than themselves. This is the problem we face. Harassment is complicated. Yetit is better to admit that we don’t know enough about it and should try to cure our ignorance than to actively derail it in the hopes that it’ll stop. It won’t. So, let’s talk about it. The writer is a lawyer, and former legal advisor to the Federal Ombudsperson for protection again harassment Published in Daily Times, June 7th 2018.