Anyone could be subject to sexual harassment though in culture and society like Pakistan mostly women are victims of such harassment. Harassment in any society or organization is a testament to regressive behavior that creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, and offensive environment that has a devastating effect on any society or organization by adversely affecting its overall performance and development.
Harassment, in all forms and manifestations, may it be based on race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age-related, and/or sexual harassment affects and violates the dignity of a person, as guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan.
Women are the soul of every nation. Globalization resulted in an increased number of women in workforce. Participation of women into work force is seen as the indicator of development in a society. Such societies are considered to be cognizant of the skills and potential of their women. However, every society has some people who do not wish to see women rising and thriving. They try to stop them via different tactics; harassment is one of those. Through such moves they try to halt the economic and social development of women without even recognizing that halting their development will seize the development of entre society.
Harassment at workplace raises the brows of intellectuals because these are the places where educated people are employed. When they fall prey to such heinous crimes, what can happen to the uneducated ones becomes a question to ponder upon.
Harassment at workplace takes place all around the world. However, successful are the countries that implement strict laws that prevent them from happening and in making sure that the accused is punished to set a precedent that such incident never happens again. These practices are necessary for providing effective and productive workplace environment to women workers all around the world.
Pakistan, like other countries, has laws to address the issue of harassment at workplace. According to Section 2(h) of the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010, harassment
“means 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 with such a request or is made a condition for employment.”
According to the Section 3 of the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010, every organization has to constitute an Inquiry Committee to inquire into complaints made against workplace harassment. And committee shall consist of three members of whom at least one member should be a woman.
If a person is guilty of workplace harassment, following penalty under Section 4 of the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 can be imposed on him:
A) Minor Penalties
• Withholding for a specific period, promotion or increment
• Stoppage for a specific period
• Recovery of the compensation payable to the complainant from pay or any other source of the accused.
B) Major Penalties:
• Reduction to lower post or time-scale or to a lower stage in a time-scale.
• Compulsory retirement
• Removal from service
• Dismissal from service and
According to Section 8 of the Protection against Harassment of women at Workplace Act, 2010, the female has an option to file a complaint directly to the Ombudsman or the Inquiry Committee.
The above-mentioned Sections of the Act show that women in Pakistan are not left helpless and unaided by the law; the only pitfall is, they are unaware of their vested rights. Ever since the inception of our country, female legislators have raised their voice and through their actions confirmed that a woman holds as much importance in building the society as a man does. Women just need to be aware of the laws that benefit, protect and empower them; once they are aware of the legal remedies, they will be fearless to move in the society and play their role in our country’s development. Sexual harassment criminals are bold and unbridled, because rarely women speak of the atrocities they face. If the criminals are charged, the laws will serve their purpose and establish deterrence leading to a better controlled society.
Ammara Kalsoom. Follow her on Twitter
The writer is working as a Young Parliamentary Fellow at National Assembly of Pakistan.