Sexual harassment cases are increasing at workplaces
Sexual harassment has remained a widespread issue in the country. Divorced women, single mothers, domestic workers, students and nurses are main victims of this tragedy.
Female employees from government and private-sector complained in different surveys and reports about the offensive and harassing behaviour of their male colleagues as well as senior officials.
In this regard, the government of Pakistan passed two laws against sexual harassment in the workplace in March 2010. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act amended the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, to protect women and punish the guilty party for up to three years or a fine of 500,000 rupees or both.
The new law defines sexual harassment in a better way and provides for enhanced punishment under Section 509 of PPC. The Sexual Harassment Law requires displaying the code of conduct in an organization, forming a three-member inquiry committee and holding awareness seminar for its staff.
Co-workers often witnesses but avoid saying nothing, in a bid to not the loss of their own positions. But victims complained that sexual harassment from superiors is hence often coupled with isolation by colleagues who watch and witness.
The six years old law is a thorough document. The code of conduct comprised in it defines harassment as
“any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or written statement 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 of employment”.
It was a notable success when the law was passed in 2010. We accept that change comes slowly but a law was certainly a good first step.
But in a matter of fact, not much has happened since then. Harassment is still out of control in the workplace.
The majority of workplaces have a slight idea about what the code of conduct really is? Workplaces need to display it visibly in employee areas.
The wrong use of authority by senior management even in the development sector is also a great factor.
A web-based database named as ‘Sexual Harassment Watch’ has also been launched where organizations share the conformity information with other organizations. Punjab Police has also been given training on the application of section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and was advised to register sexual harassment cases below section 509 instead of section 107 of the Code.