A claim of harassment stirs debate, draws Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy into focus

A claim of harassment stirs debate, draws Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy into focus

Since her tweets about an incident with her sister at AKUH, Sharmeen is facing considerable backlash on social media.
Updated 27 Oct, 2017

Earlier this week, Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy shared on Twitter that her sister "went to AKU emergency [and] the doctor who tended to her tried [to] add her on [Facebook]".

In her initial tweet, Sharmeen termed the incident a breach of boundaries. By her third, she had summed up the incident as "harassment".

In her tweets, Sharmeen also said that she's taken action against the doctor. By this morning, social media was abuzz with the rumour that the concerned doctor has been fired by the Aga Khan University Hospital.

AKUH is refraining from confirming or denying the rumour, saying: "The Aga Khan University Hospital always maintains the highest standards of confidentiality and will not release any information on either employees or patients." Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports continue to claim that the doctor has been let go.

Since her tweets about the incident, Sharmeen is facing considerable backlash on social media.

Reactions range from public figure Ali Moeen Nawazish's belief that Sharmeen has trivialised the ordeal of real victims of harassment by calling a Facebook friend request "harassment" — to a post from the concerned doctor's colleague who implies that Sharmeen abused her power as a celebrity to bring about the doctor's termination.

There have been many more remarks in between about whether a Facebook friend request constitutes harassment and whether the doctor's punishment was excessive, but what's important to highlight here is the understanding that AKUH as an organisation has a right to relieve its employees if their actions are found in violation of the organisational code of conduct.

A doctor-patient relationship is governed by a set of ethics regarding personal interaction and use of confidential information. If these ethics are breached — by using personal information to locate someone on social media, for example — it is perfectly justifiable for action to be taken irrespective of sympathy-garnering factoids like the concerned doctor was "a father of four".

Many commentators have also reminded naysayers that as a general rule (and especially in Pakistan, where personal boundaries are routinely infringed upon and harassment is a major issue) it is not up to the accused/perpetrator to determine what constitutes acceptable behaviour or not — that right belongs to the accuser/victim.

What's perhaps more problematic about the conversation surrounding the incident is Sharmeen's own implication that she will use her family credentials to resolve the issue.

This is contradictory to Sharmeen's own body of work that serves to equalise the justice system. Her documentaries like Saving Face and A Girl In The River have sought to make legal recourse easier for victims of violence irrespective of their class privileges.

Her tone in her tweets undercuts the intent of her work and the motive of her complaint — and that tone, rather than her highlighting of inappropriate conduct, is probably the only issue up for debate here.