In a new move to deal with growing concerns about sexual harassment in the Islamic republic, Pakistan will be among the first countries in the region to set up a centre to discuss and resolve women’s harassment complaints on social media.
“We are crowdsourcing sexual harassment cases,” an official told reporters at a press conference in Islamabad. “Recent experience has shown that people who do not have access to facts of the case are the best and quickest judges in cases of sexual harassment.”
Thousands of people in the country took no time to give their final verdict on their Facebook profiles in a recent high profile case of harassment at a university in Lahore, surprising jurists and lawyers and compelling them to explore new channels of delivering justice in ways in which justice appears to have been done.
The Centre for Online Trials of Sexual Harassment Against Women will not only promote the resolution of harassment cases on people’s Facebook and Twitter timelines, but has also been tasked to set up an internet mechanism that will allow personal details from the complaints to be shared directly to the profiles of thousands of people who will then discuss the evidence in detail in the light of their opinions about the previous failings of the complainant and the accused as well as gender roles and expectations in general.
And that is what will make the platform sustainable. According to market research carried out by a consultant, hundreds of thousands of men are ready to pay huge sums to get anonymous access to elaborate details of various acts of harassment. “Although we do not understand why men would want to read these details on their cellular phones and laptops, we do believe this will give them the ability to analyze the evidence and come up with rapid decisions,” a researcher told this scribe.
But critics believe that is too little too late. “Where have they been so far?” said a software engineer who considers himself an expert on women. “I would have given anything to read all this before.”
Officials say the center is a unique idea and needs support from legal experts and the general public alike.
Meanwhile, young men all over the country are up in arms about stern sexual harassment laws, saying the concerns are overrated. “I have worked with so many women in my fifteen-year career,” the software engineer said, “but I have never been harassed by any of them.” He said he had never been treated as a sexual object and had never been touched by any of his female colleagues in inappropriate ways. “I have advanced so far in my career because of my brains and not because of my body,” he elaborated. “But if something of that sort happens, I will accept it as a societal norm and will not complain to the authorities.”
“I think everyone has a right to decide if they want to be harassed or not,” said a male teenager who has just started an internship.
Back in Islamabad, the Centre for Online Trials of Sexual Harassment Against Women continues to develop new ways in which people can use apparently unrelated information to come to decisions about what might have happened in a CCTV video footage that a friend of a friend of a friend claims to have watched.
“For us jurists, it was quite a surprise that things that most of us thought were completely unrelated to the cases and therefore – such as the what kind of clothes the complainant wore in the past, or who the parents of the accused were – could be so useful in solving the case,” a former judge said on condition of anonymity.
As verdicts continue to pour in on the sexual harassment case in Lahore, the government says it is ready to take advantage of the wisdom of the crowd and the new interactive technologies to devise a new mechanism to fight this menace.
“We just want girls to know that they no longer have to stay quiet about these things,” an official said while talking to this scribe. “These online discussions will encourage women to report harassment cases and fight for justice.”

The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer.