The Case of Pakistan’s Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010
Pakistan’s Sexual Harassment Act 2010
Pakistan is a developing country comprising of a patriarchal society with well-defined gender specific behaviours. The general consensus in the society holds men as the dominant, powerful and superior beings, whereas, women are often considered as weak and powerless in the society. These diverse views have led to a clear distinction between the rights of men and women across all sectors of the economy and resultantly, women have not been able to fully contribute to Pakistan’s development. Despite the Government of Pakistan’s (GoP) efforts in increasing the number of women employees for the last several years, the minimum quota for 5 per cent remain unfilled (AASHA, 2010).
In 2010, President Asif Ali Zardari passed a Bill, titled, “Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act” while recognising sexual harassment as not only an issue but a punishable crime. The bill defines sexual harassment as “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 to such a request or to make it a condition for employment“ (GoP, 2010).
The Bill clearly outlines procedures for holding inquiries as well as penalties for minor and major offences, ranging from mild reprimands to firing the accused. It addresses appeals against penalties and provides for an ombudsman, who is to be appointed by the law ministry at the provincial level. This person is tasked with ensuring that the entire process is being carried out fairly, especially when the head of an organisation is the accused. Both the victim and the accused have direct access to the ombudsman. The bill makes it clear that the committee has 30 days to come up with the verdict as well as the penalty, if any. After this, the organisation’s management is given a week to implement the penalty, such as, for example, firing or demoting the guilty party. Within a month, any aggrieved party can also appeal to the ombudsman, who has a month to decide the case. As an added protection, any employee can take their company to court for not following the formal procedure laid out in the bill and a fine of up to 100,000 rupees can be imposed on the organisation. “The complaint mechanism, nature of remedy – which includes psychological and other compensations – and appeal mechanisms are covered well,” says Naeem Ahmed Mirza, programmes director at Aurat Foundation (GoP, 2010).
Moreover, the Act builds on the principles of equal opportunity for men and women and their right to earn a livelihood without fear of discrimination while complying with the Government’s commitment to high international labour standards and empowerment of women. It also adheres to the Human Rights Declaration, the United Nation’s Convention for Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 100 and 111 on workers’ rights (ILO, 2007).
- AASHA. (2010). Retrieved from Alliance Against Sexual Harassment : http://www.aasha.org.pk/Background.php
- GoP. (2010). Government of Pakistan Gazette Notification. Retrieved from http://www.ndu.edu.pk/temp/PROTECTION_AGAINST_HARASSMENT_OF_WOMEN_ACT_2010.pdf
- ILO. (2007). International Labour Organisation. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/eurpro/moscow/areas/gender/iloconv.htm