Women’s Commission, police handicapped as women fear reporting
Srinagar: Women continue to face sexual harassment and gender bias at work places, yet no case of harassment has ever been filed in the women’s police station at Rambagh.
Shame, fear of losing the job and possible backlash from society allow sexual harassment at work places go unreported. In many a cases, awareness is also seen as a reason for women’s inaction.
Bazila (name changed) is 24. Tall and cylinder, with hazel eyes, this Hawal resident worked as a teacher, a job considered “safest for women”. Two months into her first job after her graduation in Urdu from Kashmir University, she began receiving “wired emojis” from a colleague who had been working at the Higher Secondary School for six years. “He used to stare me and follow me. Then came the text messages,” he said. “He would call me from different numbers.”
When the tirade of messages and phone calls did not stop, Bazila changed her number. For the fear that society will blame her if she spoke out, she chose silence. But the scars of the trauma remain.
“Education sector is not new to it (sexual harassment),” she said. “Getting a job is very difficult, not because of lack of opportunities, or that you are less educated, but only because you are women. And woman never complain if she gets harassed because of the fear that you could lose your job or be shamed by the society.”
Sometime I thought I was going report to the school authorities, but I was scared. I thought they will blame me as I was new in the school, and he had been there for six years.”
Bazila says she did not tell anyone and instead quit the job. “I cannot forget the harassment and I don’t want to join any school now,” she said.
The story is just one example of what many women face at work place, in environments considered safer than the street, where harassers prowl and look for opportunities to make sexual advances on women.
Five months ago, a 31-year-old employee of HDFC bank from Takyabal Sopore committed suicide. She left a note in which she wrote about harassment by the Cluster Head of HDFC Bank. The case is unresolved. As police awaits forensic report, the woman’s frustration is stirring conversations among women – about awareness, laws meant to protect women and the society’s approach towards the issues.
Harassment knows no occupational boundaries. Women experience it in different shades – sexual, mental, and emotional.
Naseema (name changed), a 45-years-old Lalbazar resident, works in the Handicraft sector. Few years back, she was promoted and was transferred to a place outside Srinagar. In her initial days at the job, she says her male colleagues seemed jealous, and were “not ready to work under a woman’s supervision”.
“Some of my male chauvinist colleagues started using bad language for me. My washroom was locked and I was told that it is for the male bosses only,” she said. “When everything else failed, I filed case against them in the (Women’s) Commission.”
“I believe harassment faced by women happens only due to gender inequality, and dominant nature of a man,” she added.
Speaking to Kashmir Reader, Khalida Parveen, the Station House Officer (SHO) of women police station says, “Not a single case of women harassment is registered in this police station. But it is quite visible that these acts happen at workplaces. Girls have to complain, and then only we can act. The initiative has to be taken by them, if they won’t speak, how can we know what is happening?”
State Women’s Commission Chairperson, Nayeem Mahjoor, says that her commission has addressed several cases of harassment at work places. “Most cases,” she says, “are of mental harassment and torture of women at work places.”
Mehjoor says whenever such cases are reported to the commission, “we ensure speedy justice”. She added that very few sexual harassment cases are reported from Kashmir, as girls were scared how society will view them.
She says sexual harassment, and other forms of harassment, occur in every sector. “But girls themselves have to raise an alarm. If any girl feels mentally, emotionally or sexually harassed, firstly report to police and then leave it to commission, we will act.”
“If this silence continues, it will prove dangerous for women, as these crimes will peak and girls will live in trauma for whole life. It is my request that girls know about their rights.”