The law against workplace harassment exists, now what?


Sehrish Wasif April 24, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Aliya Shiraz*, 25, was shocked when she overheard her boss talking to one of his friends two weeks ago: “How can I pay Rs10,000 salary to a girl who is not attractive enough?”

This was not the first time her boss had gauged her looks or acted inappropriately with her. Previously, he had sent her text messages with words like ‘baby’ and ‘sweetheart.’ He would also compliment her profusely when she stepped into his office, and make her serve tea to male guests “with a smile.” When she heard him tell his friend that she was too “plain” to charm donors, right after she had requested for her promised salary, it was the final straw. “I burst into tears and left my job without saying a word to anyone.”

The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 was signed by President Asif Ali Zardari last month. But question marks still hang over its implementation as experiences similar to the one Shiraz faced continue to occur. Athar Minallah, a senior lawyer, told The Express Tribune that the implementation of the harassment bill would take some time as it was difficult to change the mindset of people. “The law is good, but it’s a male-dominated society. It will take time for people to accept it,” he said.

He also emphasised that it would take time for police personnel to understand and recognise the law. “They are the real players as they are the ones who have to register and process the complaints registered by females,” he said. Another woman, Maheen Rasheed*, shared her experience with The Express Tribune. At 1:30 am, the 25-year-old journalist’s phone rang as she was working on her laptop. “When I picked up, I was puzzled to hear my boss on the other end, saying that he loves me and insisting that I visit him the next day when no one would be in his room,” she said. She was extremely scared and shocked. “I kept on crying the whole night,” she said.

“I told one of my colleagues [the next day], only to find out that she had also received a call from the [same] boss,” she said. Executive Director Women’s Organisation for Rights and Development Aqsa Khan, who is a founding member of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment, said that the real challenge was implementation of the law. “Simply setting up inquiry committees just to fulfill legal responsibility is not enough,” she said.

“There is a need for more commitment in regard to dealing with cases of sexual harassment and improving organisational culture,” she added. “We need to challenge the myths … our society inappropriately blames the victims … [thinking they are] responsible for provoking and inviting harassment,” she said. Yasmeen Rehman, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Women Development, said that it is too early to talk about hurdles in the implementation of this law. “So far, I do not see any hurdles … NGOs, law enforcement agencies, government officials are cooperating with us,” she said. “There is a need to create awareness among women to understand the importance of this law … [they should] register their complaints without getting scared of anyone,” she added.

*NAMES OF THE WOMEN HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THEIR IDENTITY

COMMENTS (14)

SadafFayyaz | 10 years ago | Reply yes This is an on-going issue these days, due to which most of the females do not like to work... but it needs to be dealt more seriously and realistically.. Boss calling in office and showing interest is a scene that almost,, every woman goes throuh... if i am not wrong....No one wants to leave a cake pie that is there in the offices. In case if the woman is extremely ugly or bad-looking,, a normal female goes through such behavior from peers too.. I have examples of young male teachers showing an odd attitude to beautiful female students and giving them good grades.. Eye witness to such things and events,,,, aankhon dekhey....Sexual harrassment is a very wide term.... saying only babe and darling tak mehdood nahi hey... It includes: Examples of Sexual Harassment Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of situations. These are examples of sexual harassment, not intended to be all inclusive. Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and repartee. Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker's back, grabbing an employee around the waiste, or interfering with an employee's ability to move. Repeated requests for dates that are turned down or unwanted flirting. Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature. Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters. Playing sexually suggestive music. @Sehrish you have only dealt with a part of sexual h... I shall be glad if you write more openly on this topic......but a good attempt by you.. At least you have written on it...
Rida Ali | 10 years ago | Reply It was great to see someone finally talking about the major issue of sexual harassment but I am very sorry sehrish this article is very loosely put! Stories like my boss called saying that he loves me and come to his room is not big of a deal as oppose to women who are being fondled by men at a workplace...The article would have come out really well only if you would have researched a bit more and come up with real life stories that would have actually touched the viewers heart! my message to all the women out there is to please be strong I know it is hard when you are in such a situation but you can protect yourself not just by law but by setting your boundaries and learning to put people in their place. Believe me people who are morally corrupted do not have the guts to talk crap with you once you tell them that you not going to take any of it! as for tribune I am sorry guys but you really need to improve the quality of your articles and writers!
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