The government’s move to criminalise stalking of women and girls is to be welcomed. A new Section 354B is to be included in the Pakistan Penal Code making pursuing females an offence punishable with imprisonment and fine. It is a healthy sign that the government has heard the voices of women in the wake of the recent upsurge in crimes against women, including their sexual harassment in the streets, other public spaces and workplace. The proposed law will enable females to lodge complaints with the head of a police station that she is being followed by a man seeking unsolicited intimacy and sexual touch with her.
The law will apply also to online harassment of females through email and other electronic media platforms. In the initial stage, the police official will issue written caution notices to the stalker warning him to mend his ways. If the man persists in his evil ways, he will be liable to be jailed for up to three months together with a fine of Rs100, 000. If this fails to deter the stalker, he will be imprisoned for up to one year with an enhanced fine of Rs500, 000. Men who in their official capacity follow females for prevention and detection of crime will be exempt from the law. There is another proposal for insertion of a new Section 498D in the PPC. Under this section, if a woman is subjected to cruelty by her husband and his relatives with the purpose of seeking her consent in property, child custody and other such matters, the perpetrators will be jailed for up to three years with fine.
Street harassment of girls and women is a common issue the world over. In the past, females ignored it, taking it as a norm. Responding to women’s demand for stricter laws against harassment, governments in many countries have enacted laws to stop this evil practice. These measures have worked. If bad behaviour is unpunished, it goes on endlessly producing more bad behaviour.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2021.
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