The dawn of 2018 brought a welcome message for sexual abuse awareness in form of the Time’s Up movement. The initiative was launched by over 300 women in Hollywood against workplace harassment following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This campaign took place just months after the #MeToo campaign (October 2017), which highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual abuse worldwide.
Women have struggled for centuries to gain equal rights.
In particular, workplace discrimination is something that most women experience worldwide. However, thanks to initiatives like Time’s Up, women are speaking out in support of ending the wage gap. Women are paid less and therefore have fewer occupational choices; the situation is even worse for women of colour. The above holds true for a patriarchal society like Pakistan, where occupational roles are fixed on the basis of gender. Hence, Time’s Up, although a product of the west, is essential to end the ongoing cycle of gender abuse within Pakistan.
Because of gender inequality, globally we are at bottom-not just in terms of wages and job opportunities but also female health.
Time’s Up is finally taking a step in the right direction to end the inequality and patriarchy that normalizes discrimination and harassment. The Pakistani media is also picking up the anti-harassment and abuse campaign. Actress Nadia Jamil was one of the first people to speak up against sexual abuse:
When I sexually abused it ws by my Kari Sahab, my Driver & then by a highly educated elite families son. Now a happily married business man in London. It’s across the board. Men abuse across the board. My family still wants me to stay silent. But the shame IS NOT MINE! Never ever
— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) January 13, 2018
Following in her example, others like Frieha Altaf and Maheen Khan also shared their stories. In our society, women from a young age are conditioned to accept sexual abuse and harassment. The reason is lack of awareness and education. Most of these abuse incidents go unheard, leaving the victim traumatized. The Time’s Up initiative’s purpose is to promote legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment. Furthermore, it also discourages the use of non-disclosure agreements to shield perpetrators.
2018 is the year of women.
The Times’s Up initiative was announced in a full-page ad in the New York Times. The announcement cited a message of solidarity from the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (the National Farm-worker women’s Alliance) on behalf of 700,000 female farm-workers. In addition, the ad detailed the $13million legal fund to help women in less privileged professions to protect themselves from sexual misconduct and consequently any problems arising from reporting these allegations.
The first most noteworthy event was Golden Globes 2018 ceremony, where attendees showed their support by wearing all black. This was the first time where the whole entertainment industry came together in support of harassment and abuse victims. Times’s Up and #MeToo dominated the conversation during the Sundance Film Festival 2018 as well. Another example is the Grammy’s-the stars wore a white rose to show their support for this initiative.
Apart from this, Time’s up and #MeToo have made a huge impact in all industries; women are speaking out against harassment and gender inequality.
Time Magazine acknowledged all those who spoke out against harassment in their December 2017 cover.
In the UK, six BBC male anchors have agreed to pay cuts amidst gender wage gap issue. Furthermore, Time’s Up initiative will also be dealing with the accusations brought forward by working-class women. NWLC, (National Women’s Law Centre’s Legal Network) for Gender Equity will administer it’s legal defense operation. It’s purpose will be to provide adequate legal representation to victims of sexual harassment. The Time’s Up open letter reads,
“The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time’s up on this impenetrable monopoly”
Pakistan could certainly do well from the suggested changes of Time’s Up. According to the Punjab Gender Parity Report 2017, the number of reported violence cases were 7,313 in 2016, as compared to 6,505 cases in 2015 and 5,967 in 2014. The data shows an unfortunate increase of 12%. The real figures could be even higher. The report details 13 types of crimes against women including rape, murder, beating, gang rape, honor killing, burning/acid etc.
Feminism has been the greatest champion of women’s struggles for centuries. Today, feminism is going back to it’s roots of demanding equality using tools like Time’s Up and Womens March. The definition of equal rights is more or less the same as human rights. While the 21st century women are still struggling to make their mark on society, no one can deny that men have better and more variety of opportunities in career and life.
Finally in 2010, the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (PHWW) Bill passed with help of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA). In October 2017, female parliamentarians of Punjab Assembly have started training women by educating them about the PHWW Act 2010 with amendment 2012, Section 509 of PPC, Telegraphic Act and Cyber Harassment laws. There are positive examples like of Shaheen Bukahri who lodged a complaint against her boss, the NADRA Deputy Chairman. We need to know our rights to protect ourselves from harassment.
Punjab Women’s Helpline-1043 records the complaints lodged by women and furthermore guides them to concerned authority.
The bill can only be beneficial if its enacted and we need to move past the cultural barriers and voice our concerns. Times’s Up is branching out hence encouraging women to come forward to report domestic abuse. In Pakistan, we need initiatives like this to put an end to harassment and promote gender equality.