NA passes bill on harassment against women
Minister for Law and Justice, Muhammad Afzal Sindhu moved the bill to the House as passed by the Standing Committee, and all of its three clauses were passed unanimously with opposition neither opposing it nor proposing any further amendments.
The bill provides protection to working women at workplace from sexual advances and intimidation and violators will be punished with three years imprisonment or Rs. 500,000 fine or both.
The Bill states, ‘whoever makes sexual advances, or demands sexual favors or uses written or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which intends to annoy, insult, intimidate or threaten the other person or commits such acts at the premises of workplace, or makes submission to such conduct either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or makes submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual, a basis for employment decision affecting such individual, or retaliates because of rejection of such behavior, or conducts such behavior with the intention of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or fine up to Rs 500,000 or with both.’
In the next clause the bill elaborate the dispensation mechanism for the bill where the word ‘sexual harassment’ has been included to already existing entries of ‘uttering word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of women etc.
The same clause clarified the fine amount to Rs 500,000 also elaborating that the accused will not be arrested without warrant, warrants will be bailable and the case will be presented to the court of Magistrate of First Class.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons reveals that the amendment will not only make the public and work environment safer for men and women but will open up the path for more women in particular to pursue their livelihood with dignity. It will reduce poverty as more and more women will get the courage to enter the job market.
This amendment will also open up opportunity for private and the government sector to get competent human resource that will result in better production and improved quality of service. The social benefits, as a result of providing protection against harassment will become a major contribution to the development of the country.
THENEWS Editorial :
A win for women
Friday, November 06, 2009
It is easy to say that we have a situation in which there is virtually no governance at all. This is true in most spheres, but there are exceptions. One of these is in the passage of legislation aimed at protecting the rights of women and other vulnerable groups, including children. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, passed unanimously by the National Assembly, amends existing legislation to impose a jail sentence up to three years and a fine of up to 500,000 for sexual harassment. Previously, the crime was rather loosely defined and provided for a sentence of up to a year. The law is the second within three months which seeks to improve the situation for women victims of violence. In August a bill on domestic abuse was adopted by both houses of parliament. Another bill, seeking penalties for harassment in the work place, is also likely to be tabled within weeks.
The credit for all this goes to women activists, both within and outside parliament, who have worked tirelessly for a cause they believe in. According to the figures from international human rights groups, up to 80 per cent of women in the country face violence in one form or the other, and this goes to show how significant this legislation is. The passage of the laws highlights advantages of having a larger number of women in parliament. It is true that only a handful among them are directly elected and that a significant number are the relatives of key male politicians. But despite this their presence has resulted in issues that have an impact on the lives of women being discussed far more frequently, thus giving a louder voice to 50 per cent of citizens who so often go unheard.