Harassment of working women: Ministry of law yet to implement the act

Interior, investment, and ports and shipping ministries also lagging behind.


Irfan Ghauri January 02, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, which implements laws and fosters public awareness about them, is itself yet to comply with a piece of legislation for protection against harassment of women at workplaces.

President Asif Ali Zardari had given assent to the anti-harassment law on March 9 last year. Under the act, all public and private organisations, including ministries, divisions and departments, are required to ensure its implementation.

But so far, the law hasn’t been implemented by many ministries, including interior, defence production, investment, ports and shipping, and textile industries.

Under the law, all employers are required to display a code of conduct within six months of the act’s commencement. The code should provide guidelines for ensuring a work environment that is free of harassment and gender intimidation.

Anyone found guilty of harassing a female subordinate or colleague may face penalties, ranging from censure and withholding of promotion for a specific period of time to dismissal from service and fine.

Employees are empowered to move the court if their organisation fails to comply with this provision. “Any employee of an organisation can file a petition before the district court. If an organisation is found guilty, it will be liable to pay a fine between Rs25,000 and Rs100,000,” says Islamabad-based legal expert Barrister Muhammad Afzal.

Afzal said that under the law, each organisation was also bound to constitute an inquiry committee within 30 days of the act’s enactment. “This committee is meant to probe into complaints of harassment and, under the law, at least one committee member is required to be a woman. One member should be a senior representative of the employees or a senior employee where there is no CBA,” he said, adding that if an organisation was unable to designate three members from within, it could co-opt members from outside.

An official, requesting anonymity, said that the overall progress on implementation of the law was satisfactory. The official said that most ministries had implemented the law, while others were in the process.

“Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is personally taking interest in the law’s implementation. The PM’s secretariat has issued instructions to ministries to comply,” the official said.

He said that Gilani had recently appointed the first woman ombudsperson.

However, provinces are yet to appoint an ombudsperson to receive and decide on complaints of sexual harassment. Under the law, the ombudsperson is authorised to hear appeals against decisions of inquiry committees.

According to the official, the district courts can hear the cases in the absence of the ombudsperson.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2011.

COMMENTS (2)

NON BUT ONE | 10 years ago | Reply Some of us or otherwise have still continue to follow the same attitude with the female creed. One of the bad example to force the female workers to work beyond working hours and even upto 2200 hours on last working days of the week either to gain maximum benefits of easy earing from their overseas customers and paying nothing extra to the poor female workers under duress against their will.. In some setups the employers have adopted malpractice of illegally deducting three days' salary if a lady-worker desires to avail a one day leave on FRIDAY or MONDAY. What is going on here in Karachi or everywhere. Is it not against the Islamic principles and law of the land. Is it not equal to female harassment or it is in the name of equality of gender. Will anyone help to curb this another way of harassment a female worker is being confronted. NON BUT ONE.
Syed A. Mateen | 11 years ago | Reply To curb the menace of harassment of females at work places, the need of the hour is that in every organization, whether it belongs to government or private sector, an educated, married and experienced lady should be appointed who should report female harassment cases on work places directly to the chief executive of an organization and to no body else and an inquiry should be initiated/conducted on her written report filed to the chief executive.
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