Harassment: fact, perception and law —Hina Hafeezullah Ishaq “The fact that a girl old enough to look after herself decides to walk in a public place without someone to look after her and without purdah can never be a ground for a miscreant to tease or annoy her for that reason”
In 1957, a five-member bench of the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan gave a landmark judgment, which sadly has sat in the archives of case law for more than half a century, without being cited much in recent years. In 1954, a group of girls from a college in Lahore went to the Hiran Minar, Sheikhupura, for a picnic, with the permission of their principal. Whilst they were there they were hounded and followed by a group of boys, who uttered obscene words and made indecent gestures at them. The girls reported the incident to the Sheikhupura police, who, after investigation, filed a report, among others, under Section 509 PPC. The additional district magistrate convicted three boys under Section 509. An appeal was preferred to the learned additional sessions judge, Sheikhupura, who acquitted them, holding that no offence had been committed. He also held that boys had an equal right to be in the park and that the girls were ‘rowdy’, unaccompanied and without purdah (veil) and the college administration had been imprudent in letting them go unsupervised.
The government appealed to the high court where the matter was heard by a division bench. The order of acquittal was set aside and that of the trial court restored. The boys then appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The honourable Supreme Court observed: “The learned additional sessions judge displayed a serious lack of judicial equilibrium in preaching a sermon to the management of the college that girls should not be permitted to go unescorted and without purdah and that the conduct attributed to the young men who followed and pestered them was perfectly natural.”
The honourable judges also held that “girls are as much...
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