‘Time’s Up!’

The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it. This was the theme this year, at the 75th Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. And to show their solidarity against discrimination and sexual harassment, all women came dressed in black while men wore pins with the message ‘Time’s Up’. The ‘Me Too’ movement that began some years ago enlisting millions of women acknowledging they had been sexually violated, mushroomed last year on Twitter after famous men in politics, media, arts, academia, business and entertainment were outed by their victims who had been sexually harassed — raped, molested, groped and assaulted.

Oprah Winfrey was the star at the awards ceremony. The billionaire mega-TV star has often shared her story of being abused as a child. The 63-year-old electrified the Hollywood elites gathered in the glittering hall with her speech. She made a compelling pitch for women saying, “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.”

But had it not been for investigative reporting, stories of sexual harassment that erupted recently would have remained buried. This fact was loudly acknowledged by Oprah Winfrey when she said, “I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

Donald Trump, who is accused of sexual harassment by 19 women, has attacked the media persistently since he became president. He calls it “Fake News.” But the American media — print and electronic — is stronger than ever before. Despite daily insults and abuses by Trump via his Twitter feeds, newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post and leading TV reporters dish out ‘breaking news’ on Trump’s misdemeanours regularly.

Does the name International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) ring a bell. Well, it should! Because it was this body of journalists who outed the Panama Papers that eventually led to Nawaz Sharif’s downfall. And what a downfall! At the Golden Globe Awards, ICIJ received a ringing endorsement for their investigative work along with a one million dollars grant. “We all know the press is under siege these days,” Oprah told the crowd. “We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice.”

Seven years ago, a campaign led by the Alliance against Sexual Harassment (AASHA) in Pakistan resulted in the enactment of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (PHWW) Bill that was successfully spearheaded by women parliamentarians like Sherry Rehman. However, commented Senator Rehman, “The real challenge is to get the laws implemented.” I do not have the latest statistics of the complaints filed by women, but we do know that Pakistani women are too timid to report sexual assaults due to our tribal traditions of not speaking up when abused, especially among the suppressed strata of society. But sexual harassment is a worldwide epidemic among powerful men who through their wealth, position and influence have held women as hostages, often treating them as their sexual slaves. American women have at last set the ball rolling by putting the male offenders on notice warning that ‘Time’s Up’. This groundswell movement is sure to have a ripple effect in other parts of the world, including Pakistan, hopefully.

Let the powerful and not so powerful men of Pakistan be put on notice that the time’s up, for their exploitation and sexual harassment of women they think they have control over.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2018.

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Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/1608030/6-times-up/