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Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy responds to critics in harassment controversy

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy responds to critics in harassment controversy

KARACHI: Amid brewing outrage and backlash on social media, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on Tuesday issued a detailed statement to clarify speculation with regard to her claim of harassment which had stirred a hornet’s nest on social media websites over the past week.

In a series of tweets earlier this week, the filmmaker had shared that her sister had visited a private hospital for a medical check-up but later received a friendship request on social media from the doctor who had examined her.

“There are zero boundaries in #Pakistan! Last night my sister went to AKU emergency & the doctor who tended to her tried 2 add her on FB,” she posted on her verified Twitter account. Terming that “unethical”, Ms Obaid-Chinoy questioned: “How doctor tending 2 emergency patients thinks it’s ok to take a female patient info & add her on FB.”

In her final tweet, she termed the incident a case of harassment while claiming that she would take action against the doctor — “Unfortunately the doctor messed with the wrong women in the wrong family and I will definitely report him! Harassment has 2 stop!”

The tweets sparked an aggressive campaign on Pakistan’s digital space against the filmmaker, with some debating whether a friend request was synonymous to harassment, while others expressed sympathy with the accused as rumours that Ms Obaid-Chinoy’s complaint had resulted in him being fired from the hospital made the rounds.

Ms Obaid-Chinoy responded to the reaction in a note regretting that despite drawing much comment and controversy, her tweets about the doctor’s “inappropriate behaviour” had failed to address real concerns — the safety of women, unchecked unethical practices and harassment.

“As a public figure, I receive unsolicited friendship requests from strangers all the time, and never once have I brought that up, however this [Facebook] request to my sister was under different circumstances,” the filmmaker wrote, while admitting that her manner of calling out the doctor’s conduct and tone of expression was poorly chosen at a time of “heated emotion”.

Explaining her case further, she alleged that the accused doctor had left comments on her sister’s photographs on social media and then tried to add her as a friend on Facebook. Reiterating her claim that such behaviour was a “serious breach of patient-doctor privilege”, she said that the hospital was investigating the matter independently.

“Women are afraid to voice issues of harassment and unethical behaviour because they may be ignored or because we drown out their voices,” she said, taking a swipe at her detractors.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2017

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