LAHORE: Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010
In March 2010, President Asif Ali Zardari signed the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace bill into law, which seeks to create a safe working environment for women, free of intimidation and abuse.
The law defines harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or is made a condition for employment”.
Formation of a three-member inquiry committee was made mandatory under Section 3 of the Act. The law requires that at least one member of the committee is a woman. The committee is required to submit its findings within 30 days and to impose penalties, which, in serious cases, can result in dismissal from service and fine.
Under the law, all private and public organisations are required to formulate a Code of Conduct.
Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code was also amended. The amended section ‘Insulting Modesty or causing Sexual Harassment’, elaborates on the kinds of harassment that shall be considered in the realm of the said section. If found guilty, a person can be imprisoned for up to three years or be fined up to Rs500, 000 or both.
HEC’s policy guidelines
Following the enactment of the law, the Higher Education Commission also developed a policy code for higher education institutions (HEI) called the ‘Policy Guidelines against Sexual Harassment at Institutions of Higher Learning’ in 2011. The policy covers harassment by teachers and students.
It defines sexual harassment as: any unwanted sexual advances and unwelcome requests for sexual favours.
A Harassment Monitoring Officer, with at least 10 years experience and ‘sound’ reputation is required, under the HEC guidelines, to promote awareness on sexual harassment and to act as adviser in case of a complaint on campus.
The policy recommends the formation of a Harassment Complaint Cell with a team comprising of a ‘gender-sensitised’ harassment officer, with one of the senior members being female. Penalties for those found guilty range from warnings to fine and from suspension to dismissal.
It urges HEIs to formulate programmes that educate its students and staff to ensure the prevention of sexual harassment on campuses. It also advises that information be disseminated amongst students regarding who they should report to when they face harassment.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2013.
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