Sexual harassment bill: ‘Implement law to protect women’

Published: December 23, 2010
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Assembly discusses issues of lady health workers, ‘media trial’ of domestic violence victims.

Assembly discusses issues of lady health workers, ‘media trial’ of domestic violence victims.

ISLAMABAD: For the last three months the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) in Chakwal District have not received their salaries. Most of them are the sole bread-earners for their families. And among them, is a widow who has two daughters and is facing a tough time due to lack of finances.

This lady health worker, who did not want to share her identity, was invited to attend an event titled “Moving Forward with the Rights of Working Women” in Islamabad on Wednesday, at the Prime Minister Secretariat.

It was the 10th working women’s assembly, organised by Alliance against Sexual Harassment (AASHA).

AASHA’s chairperson Dr Fouzia Saeed said that media, by highlighting the brutalities being faced by women, was hindering the victims in their pursuit of justice. “And the anchors of TV shows who are cashing in on such things to attain fame [are doing these women no good],” she said.

The objective behind the event was to raise a “forceful voice” for early implementation of anti-sexual harassment law and praise the efforts of working women for the country’s development.

Prime Minister (PM) Yousuf Raza Gilani, Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza, Special Assistant to the PM on Social Sector Shahnaz Wazir, and Federal Minister of Women Development Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan attended the event. Moreover, parliamentarians, ambassadors, officials of Islamabad Traffic Police, Islamabad Police and civil society representatives from across the country were also present on the occasion.

“The LHW programme was initiated by Benazir Bhutto, but unfortunately her own representatives are being treated as step children,” Saeed said.

The hosts silenced her and warned not to ask out-of-context questions from the prime minister and stick to issues related to the sexual harassment.

Speaking on the occasion Gilani announced December 22 to be celebrated as “National Day of Pakistani Women”.

He also announced Musarat Hilali, from Malakand, as an ombudsman to legally deal with sexual harassment issues of working women under Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010.

PM Gilani said, “There will be no gender discrimination and references will not be required for vacancies in government departments. All such vancancies will be filled on merit.”

He assured that the workplace harassment bill will be effectively implemented in the country.

On the occasion, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan announced that a “women task forum” will be created soon with an aim to involve rural women in decision making process.

She said, “A lot is needed to empower the women of the country socially, culturally, and economically.”

While speaking about the passage of the harassment bill, Dr Fehmida Mirza said, “After the passage of 18th Amendment the domestic violence bill will be passed unanimously from the National Assembly.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2010.

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