10th January 2022
Syed Amir Hussain Taqvi
A 30-year-old woman employed as a daily wage cleaner at the tehsil headquarters (THQ) hospital in Chunian, Kasur district, has accused its medical superintendent (MS) Dr. Rai Bilal of sexually harassing her.
“Rai Bilal kept telling me that I am pretty, that I should come by his house and give him a massage and in return he will make me a permanent employee… he is harassing so many other women,” she related. “All I want is justice.”
The single mother of three, who is also a Christian, worked at the hospital to raise her children after her husband died suddenly three years ago. Faiza* claims that she was being continually harassed by the MS for a long time but remained quiet for fear of losing her job, until recently when she finally approached the City Police Station to lodge a complaint. While a case has been registered and police have officially launched an investigation, Faiza had to quit her job.
Meanwhile, in protest of the first information report (FIR) lodged against the MS, the Young Doctors Association (YDA) attempted to seal the out-patient department (OPD), alleging that the case had been filed prior to completing a legal inquiry.
“The decision to boycott OPDs was a unanimous decision by our cabinet. We understand that the method by which the FIR was lodged against [Dr. Bilal] is wrong,” said Kasur President of the YDA Punjab, Dr. Tahir Shaheen. “A departmental inquiry should have been carried out. If one of our members was found guilty in the inquiry, we would stand by the decision.”
After Faiza came forward with her claims, other women under the condition of anonymity related their experiences of being sexually harassed by Dr. Bilal to Voicepk.net. Former MS of the Chunian THQ hospital Dr. Sadia claimed that Dr. Bilal had been abusing his authority to harass women long before this recent incident came to light.
“Such cases were unheard of two to three years ago. We had received various complaints against Dr. Bilal for sexual harassment when he first came here,” she said. “In October, we had received a sexual harassment complaint against him from a female doctor.”
The accused, however, denied these allegations which he believes are part of a conspiratorial plot against him. He has appealed to the higher authorities to conduct a thorough, in-depth investigation so that the facts in the matter can be brought to light.
“An FIR was registered under fabricated, untrue and baseless allegations. The police has neither taken my statement nor launched any investigation,” claimed Dr. Bilal. “I appeal to the Kasur district commissioner and district police officer to properly investigate this matter and make all facts public.”
Taking note of the incident, Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Dr. Ejaz Alam Augustine assured the victim of complete justice. Meanwhile, sanitary workers under the Chunian Municipal Committee have also called for action against the MS, as the sexual harassment of a Christian woman raises serious concerns for her community.
“We are also citizens of this country,” said Tariq Emmanuel Khan, President of the Shaheen Labour Union while holding a protest against the MS. “He harassed our sister.”
Civil society organizations are pressing for the provision of justice to victims of sexual harassment through strict action against harassers, and make all professional fields safer and inclusive for women.
*The name of the victim has been altered to protect her identity