Sharmeen Obaid’s sister deserves support not take downs

I have two reasons to believe Aga Khan Hospital is our nation’s foremost hospital in terms of quality of service and standards. First reason being that my husband got his brain tumor removed last week from there and is on his way to recovery. The second is that a doctor in the emergency room was fired by AKU because his conduct was unbecoming of a doctor that treats vulnerable women coming to him in dire times of need.

Many have claimed that the decision to fire the doctor was one that reeks of classism and elitism because the woman he harassed was the sister of our country’s two time Oscar winner Sarmeen Obaid Chinoy.

The only thing this reeks off is misogyny and sexism. When Sharmeen’s sister walked into the emergency of the hospital, she expected protection, from both her ailment and from the sense of insecurity of being both a patient and a woman. This doctor treating Sharmeen’s sister used her medical record to look her up and send her a Facebook friend request.

This is falls squarely in the category of sexual harassment because if anyone should have sent a request, it ought to be the one in the weaker power equation, in this case, the patient. It is also harassment because it was clearly unwanted. It is also harassment because it is creepy. In the digital ethics world it is like showing at someone’s house without a prior invitation and knocking at the door. Which is legally ok, but only if someone has allowed you onto their front porch in the first place.

I, for instance, don’t want anyone who’s not in my first degree of friends to show up. I would first not open the door and secondly even call the cops. It would be a signal to me the power equation and the lack of my personal agency.

Sharmeen was well within her rights to report this and call it out – to the hospital administration and to the Twittersphere. She did this for her sister, for the sisterhood. So the doctor cannot make other women uncomfortable.

This is the reason why much of our women are not allowed by the honor code and their male guardians to get treatment because most doctors are male. This doctor has made a disservice to his profession. In places like FATA, women die at home during childbirth precisely because sexual attention tends to become the fault of the victim when the story is rewritten.

What saddens me profoundly is the urbanized misogyny of our educated males who have commented on this issue as if their fraternity is and has always reminded untarnished, except for this one unwarranted accusation by Sharmeen. Ali Moen Nawazish, our star student, has called Sharmeen out for destroying the life of a doctor who fends for his family. Humanizing the doctor and in the process deliberately dehumanizing the anguish Sharmeen’s sister has felt. Other men, also stars at one thing or the other, leap to this doctor’s defense, and for good reason too, they’ve all done it. Pushed their luck to see if a girl will bite, and if she won’t at least they’d get a kick.

This entire problem, which has shown up even in our country’s most elite corridors of propriety has happened because we do not discuss the idea of consent. Imagine the ghastliness of its absence in our villages and in our rural edges of civilization?

Girl walks into a shop to buy soap and her consent is violated. Women go to education institutions after battling their families for individual rights and they get hit on by their male instructors. Young girls go to vocational school and get groped on the bus there by conductors. Everywhere power is being used for women to be violated and reminded of their puny status. What is unforgiveable is when someone does it after they know it’s wrong. When they have the cultural understanding on the impropriety.

Every time the rape culture blames women for asking for it, how very unfortunate that when a man crosses the line, he’s not asking for it, he is the victim.

If that story works for you, fine. It’s not the truth by any measure. That is why AKU is a premier institution. They understand that an ethical boundary was crossed. They maintain those boundaries and save lives. So we have hope for this country.





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