News Nurses asked to wear ‘burqa’ to avoid doctors’ sexual assault

According to reports, last week a doctor of the Mayo Hospital Lahore tried to sexually assault a nurse. Had her fellow nurses not taken to the streets to protest the incident, it might have been brushed under the carpet because, initially, the medical superintendent of Mayo Hospital had told the victim to “forget about the incident and cover her face”.

Men with Mayo Superintendent’s mindset unfortunately hold women without ‘Hijab’ responsible for inciting males to an extent that they loose control over themselves and act devilish---the women must cover and segregate themselves from men to avoid such predicament and sinning the men to commit sins.

Thankfully, after the nurses’ protest outside the Punjab Assembly, a three-member inquiry committee was formed, but on the basis of preliminary investigation, the accused was only terminated from service. This incident is reflective of how women are unsafe in a working environment.

Nurses, who have to work night shifts with their male colleagues, are at particular risk. This is not the first time a case like this has come to the surface. Not too long ago, a nursing student at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi, was assaulted by her male seniors, including a medico-legal officer. In that incident too nurses protested and pressurised the authorities to investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book, but the matter cooled down after a lapse of some six months and the accused was recently granted bail by the court.

It is a shame that in our society, women who have the courage to leave their homes to earn a living are made to suffer in this manner. Such incidents discourage people from sending their daughters, sisters and wives out to work due to the fear for their security. Alarmingly, we are a society where, more often than not, aggressive males get away with criminal assaults on weaker female subordinates.

The fact that the hospital’s administration, instead of questioning the accused and taking action against him, interpreted the entire incident as if it had dishonoured the girl and that she should be ashamed and ‘cover her face’ as if she was the real culprit and not the victim speaks volumes about how we view victims of such abuse.

Clearly, this is injustice at its worst, where a victim is forced to live incognito and the culprit is allowed to lead a respectable life. On the other hand, it also proves that refusal to accept maltreatment can lead you to justice. One must commend the exemplary unity of nurses who stood up for their colleague and got noticed by the media and authorities.

Nevertheless, there is a dire need to establish permanent mechanisms to address the issue of harrassment at the workplace. Moreover, the perpetrators must be made an example of in order to teach others of this mindset a lesson.