Activists and attorneys have hailed a latest transfer by Pakistan’s high courtroom to listen to on advantage a high-profile sexual harassment case that launched the nation’s #MeToo motion, brought on a stir on social media, and polarised public opinion.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court docket agreed to deliberate on whether or not outstanding singer and actress Meesha Shafi’s allegations in opposition to one other singer and actor, Ali Zafar, fall underneath the nation’s Safety Towards Harassment of Ladies on the Office Act of 2010.
In April 2018, on the top of the worldwide #MeToo motion, Shafi had accused Zafar on social media of sexual harassment of a bodily nature on a number of events.
Sharing this as a result of I imagine that by talking out about my very own expertise of sexual harassment, I’ll break the tradition of silence that permeates by means of our society. It’s not simple to talk out.. however it’s tougher to remain silent. My conscience is not going to permit it anymore #MeToo pic.twitter.com/iwex7e1NLZ
— MEESHA SHAFI (@itsmeeshashafi) April 19, 2018
The next day, Zafar responded to the allegations through his social media accounts, rejecting Shafi’s claims and vowing to take the case “by means of the courts of legislation”.
Shafi’s enchantment was rejected earlier by the Lahore Excessive Court docket on technical claims that her allegations didn’t fall underneath the office harassment legislation.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court docket’s resolution on Monday means the case will now transfer ahead.
“The Supreme Court docket will now hear the case intimately and determine which classes of individuals are protected underneath the legislation,” a member of Shafi’s authorized workforce on the Supreme Court docket advised Al Jazeera on situation of anonymity.
Final September, Shafi and eight different ladies have been charged by police for felony defamation after Zafar filed a go well with in opposition to them.
Leena Ghani, a make-up artist and ladies’s rights activist, was one of many 9 served the authorized discover. On Wednesday, she filed a defamation case in opposition to Zafar within the provincial Sindh Excessive Court docket.
After years of private and authorized assaults by Mr. Zafar, I’ve determined to face up for myself and struggle again.
— Leena (@Leena_Ghani) January 13, 2021
Ghani’s case additionally particulars a number of situations the place she alleges Zafar sexually harassed her since 2014. She is in search of 50 million rupees ($311,720) in damages.
“After dwelling in concern and going through threats for over two years, I made a decision to return ahead and struggle,” Ghani advised Al Jazeera.
She stated that because of a scarcity of legal guidelines defending ladies in opposition to sexual harassment, she had “no selection however to go along with a defamation case”.
“I’ve introduced the main points out within the open so folks can’t say that girls don’t come ahead and discuss,” she added.
Ghani additionally welcomed the Supreme Court docket’s resolution, terming it “an enormous success for girls going through sexual harassment in Pakistan”.
In the meantime, Zafar’s lawyer Muhammad Omar Tariq claimed on native media that when Ghani appeared earlier than the courtroom for defamation cost hearings final 12 months, she insisted she “by no means alleged Zafar of sexually harassing her and was merely stating her opinion on social media”.
In response, Ghani stated she “[appeared] in courtroom as a personality witness in Meesha’s case and subsequently selected to not disclose particulars of my very own expertise of harassment”.
She added that she has acquired rape and demise threats on social media from on-line trolls.
“If somebody as well-known as Meesha could be ridiculed and tortured for 2 years, what probabilities do ladies of much less company have?” she requested.
“When our circumstances are heard, it’s principally males sitting on the bench [in the court]. After we go to courts, they’re stuffed with males. Males are usually not conditioned to grasp verbal or bodily harassment except it’s a criminal offense as heinous as rape.”
Final August, Zafar was awarded the Pleasure of Efficiency, the best civilian award, by the Pakistani authorities. He stated he was deeply honoured and “perpetually indebted to my followers and supporters” for receiving the award.
Nonetheless, ladies’s rights activists in Pakistan slammed the federal government’s resolution to honour an individual accused of sexual harassment.
A joint assertion from a number of rights organisations requested that authorities defer the choice given the pending circumstances in opposition to Zafar.
“The federal government should do extra to lend its help to ladies so that every one victims of sexual harassment can speak about their experiences and struggle their circumstances,” stated Ghani.