The internet has been set ablaze after the termination of a doctor employed by Agha Khan University Hospital at the behest of renowned filmmaker and activist, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

The controversy first surfaced when Obaid-Chinoy posted a tweet in which she stated that a doctor that had attended to her sister when she was in the emergency ward of the hospital had sent her a friend request on Facebook.

Some people feel that she should not blame the whole Pakistan for this.

In a subsequent tweet, she implied that this behaviour was a form of harassment and vowed to take action against the doctor.

Soon after, there were several reports claiming that an unnamed doctor had been fired by the hospital’s administration.
However, her “triumph over male chauvinism” was short-lived as this gambit eventually backfired on her. News of the incident spread like wildfire but, to her dismay, legions of disgruntled armchair activists rallied behind the laid-off doctor, clamouring for his reinstatement.

Some of them posted scathing “reviews” on Agha Khan University Hospital’s Facebook page in which they criticized the administration’s decision to fire an employee for such a small infraction.

For example, one person bashed the hospital for having “pathetic standards”:
I agree that sending friend requests to unknown people is unethical, but if Agha Khan University Hospital has such pathetic standards that they have dismissed a doctor on a woman’s tweet who is responsible for harassing Pakistani women by degrading their norms, they deserve a zero star. Unfortunately, they’re lucky as it’s the lowest star option.”

But not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon to rail against Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and the hospital’s administration. Others appeared to support Obaid-Chinoy and her sister in their crusade against doctors who breach the ethical standards of their profession.

For instance, one student defended her actions in a longwinded Facebook post and concluded:
The doctor may not have intended to harass her, but he did something creepy. And unless you’ve been regularly sought out and hounded like meat on the streets, on social media, in schools, in public transport, at work – all because of your gender, you have little to no right to comment on whether anyone has been legitimately harassed.

In spite of all this outcry, the administration has stood by its decision. In fact, a senior board member from Agha Khan University Hospital had one person circulate a notice stating:

The Agha Khan University Hospital always maintains the highest standards of confidentiality, regardless of patient or employee status and will not release any information on its patients or employees. AKUH follows its policies and makes its decisions based on facts, and not any social pressures.”

Furthermore, it has also been revealed that the doctor who had been given the boot was already under investigation because a number of staff members and patients had lodged complaints against him. (Just a Rumor)

Nonetheless, this “Friend Request Fiasco” (as one person has called it) has stirred a raging debate on what constitutes harassment and whether the actions of the hospital were justified given the allegations against the doctor. Though there are varied opinions on this issue, the arguments promulgated so far fall into two camps.

On one hand, there are people who are sympathetic towards the doctor, deeming the actions of the hospital far too extreme considering that the he merely sent a friend request to the patient. Though they concede that it may have been a violation of the hospital’s policies, they assert that it would be a travesty to say that the doctor had harassed Obaid-Chinoy’s sister.

According to them, such flippant accusations only serve to trivialize actual cases of harassment and shift the public’s focus away from a serious social issue.


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On the contrary, there are those who feel that the doctor’s actions signify a much deeper problem even though they may seem harmless at first. From their perspective, the doctor had abused the patient’s confidence in him by using her personal information to “look her up” and initiate contact when it may not have been necessary.

Though most of them still agree with the general consensus that sacking the doctor was an extreme measure, letting him off with just “a slap on the wrist” would set an unsavoury precedent for future cases where there may be more serious breaches of privacy.
But unfortunately for Obaid-Chinoy, she has done more than just kick a hornet’s nest.

#sharmeenobaid #shame #harrassment

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Overplaying the incident has had the unintended consequence of drawing attention to the allegations of one of the acid attack survivors she has worked with.

A woman by the name of Rukhsana claimed that Obaid-Chinoy had promised her Rs. 3 million, a new home and facial reconstruction surgery for appearing in her Oscar-winning documentary, Saving Face.

Here is the video,

However, several years have passed and Obaid-Chinoy has supposedly not fulfilled her part of the agreement. She has instead denied making such promises in the first place.

Indeed, this controversy and the resulting backlash has left Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy in quite a predicament. While she had once brought great pride to the nation by virtue of being the first Pakistani woman to receive an Academy Award, she is now subjected to the derision of the same people who used to admire her. And if the previous allegations against her are proven to be true, it could just be the beginning of her fall from grace.


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