NA passes law against women harassment

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  1. TruthSeeker
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    NA passes law against women harassment

    By: Javaid-ur-rahman | Published: January 22, 2010

    ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly on Thursday passed “The Protection against Harassment at Workplaces Bill 2009”, to create a safe working environment for the women free of harassment, abuse and intimidation with a view to fulfil their right to work with dignity.
    The house also incorporated amendments moved by Dr Attiya Inayatullah into the bill.

    Congratulating the House after passage of the Bill, Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza said that it was beauty of democracy that government did not oppose amendments proposed in the bill.
    Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said that the incumbent government was all committed for the rights of the women.

    Minister further said that those who assassinated Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto did not succeed to stop her motion to empower women of the country. A number of steps were taken by the PPP governments in the past for the rights of the women. The lawmakers of different parties appreciated the bill describing it a way forward to bring 51 per cent population to mainstream.

    The members from opposition parties including the PML-N and PML-Q also advocated the policies of their parties towards the protection of women rights. They also supported the government in its initiatives
    Under this law every organisation would have to constitute a three members inquiry committee with at least one women as member within 30 days of the enforcement of this act to enquire into complaints under this act.

    The committee would have to initiate proceedings within three days of receipt of complaints and give its findings in writing to the competent authority within 30 days of initiation of inquiry. If the inquiry committee finds the accused to be guilty it will recommend the competent authority penalties specified in this law which include reduction to a lower post, compulsory retirement, removal from service and dismissal from service.

    The respective govt would have to appoint an ombudsperson at the federal and provincial levels who has been a judge of a high court or qualified to be appointed as judge of a high court. The complainant would have option to refer a complaint either to the ombudsperson or the inquiry committee.

    Any person aggrieved by a decision of ombudsperson within 30 days of the decision can make an appeal to the President or the Governor.
    Under the new law the employers have been bound to ensure implementation of this act, incorporate the code of conduct for protection of employees from harassment as part of their management policy and form the inquiry committee of the organisation.

    NA passes law against women harassment | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online
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    A landmark move -- Dawn Editorial

    Friday, 22 Jan, 2010

    Women and those who care for women in Pakistan have at long last something to celebrate. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill (which is related to sexual harassment) was adopted by the Senate with the support of all major parties, but with members of the religious parties staging a walkout or absenting themselves.

    The bill which had been passed by the National Assembly in November will become law when it is signed by the president. It enhances the punishment for acts previously described in the PPC and the CrPC as an “insult to the modesty of women” and gives a clearer definition of harassment to make it justiciable before a court of law. But as is the case with all laws, especially those envisaging change, they have to be translated into action. That calls for strict enforcement on the one hand, and a change in mindset on the other. One hopes that the government and social activists work towards that end to eliminate the intimidation that women face in public places. This is essential to facilitating women’s mobility outside their homes to enable them to obtain education, healthcare and employment.

    The successful passage of the bill has another far-reaching implication. It clearly indicates that if progressive forces that stand for women’s rights and social change show a political commitment to their cause they can achieve a lot by successfully challenging the retrogressive elements in our midst who want to block advancement of any kind. In this respect, women have always been their first target. It also establishes the fact that the majority of Pakistanis do not support those who have used religion and violence to sustain the myth of their power and stranglehold on public opinion.

    Perhaps the most immediate and far-reaching impact of the Senate’s move is that it has paved the way for another bill, the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Bill, 2009. The criminal law bill that had a successful passage through the upper house on Wednesday by itself does not change the parameters of ‘sexual harassment’ at the workplace. This shift in paradigm is contained in the substantive bill passed in the National Assembly on Thursday. It spells out fundamental changes in a working woman’s rights and provides for a mechanism to provide redress to an aggrieved party. Intriguingly it was not introduced in the Assembly three months ago as scheduled although the standing committee had passed it unanimously. The government would also do well to revive the lapsed legislation on domestic violence and ensure its successful passage in both houses.

    DAWN.COM | Pakistan | A landmark move
  3. SMC
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    I wonder how this law would be implemented and enforced. Sort of like US and other western countries where an accusation is enough to convict a man of guilt?
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    The USA system is somewhat driven by civil litigation fears. That is, in the USA, certain lawyers specialize in suing companies for sexual harassment on behalf of a client. They try to win huge damage awards ($ millions) of which the lawyers get 1/2 to 1/3. Companies are afraid that juries will sympathize with the woman and so they seek to avoid such suits. Hence, USA companies will fire people very quickly if they are accused of harassing, so that they limit any "damage" that might be alleged in a lawsuit against them. Pakistan probably does not yet have this "tradition" of civil lawsuits and huge damage awards. Companies that discriminate against women or minorities in a systematic way may be investigated and charged with a crime by the Civil Rights Division of the US Justice Department.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2010
  5. SMC
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    So it's driven largely on the interests of women and lawyers. Lawyers don't always get involved anyway. Sometimes women report to HR department. The reason why I am mentioning this is because in western countries I hear a ton of stories of false accusations of harassment, domestic violence, stalking, rape, etc for various reasons. So I just hope if it is enforced in Pakistani workplaces, it is not done like western countries. The problem still remains that this is still all based on words and there is rarely any evidence to prove the accusation or disprove it baring cameras, tapes, inconsistent story, and admitting to guilt.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2010
  6. mjnaushad
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    A good move if implemented correctly.