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Law urged to check harassment at workplace

KARACHI, June 30: Holding the absence of a law against sexual harassment at the workplace responsible for a surge in such incidents, speakers at a seminar on Monday said that a relevant legislation could act as deterrence and would help control the situation.

They were speaking at a seminar organised by the Aurat Foundation to discuss the proposed Sindh Prevention of Gender Harassment at Workplace bill.

The speakers said that the fear of getting caught, tried and punished would force the culprits to refrain from committing such crimes.

Speaking as chief guest, retired Justice Majida Rizvi suggested that provisions in the proposed bill should be made so that the people working in the informal sectors could also be protected and some mechanism be formulated under which they got registered properly so that they could also get the benefits and protections available to the workers associated with the formal sector.

She said that besides the formulation of relevant laws, efforts should be made to change the mindset of the members of society and for this everybody had to play their due role in creating awareness about the issue.

MPA Humaira Alwani, who is working on the proposed bill, said that during the preparation of the bill she had conducted a survey and the results were startling as the issue was more rampant than she had earlier imagined.

Citing some examples, Ms Alwani said that she came across a banker who was being denied promotion despite being an efficient professional, because she was not “obliging” her boss and was not fulfilling his “off-duty demands”.

She also gave another example of a teacher, whose husband was a drug addict, and her principal continuously harassed her that her contract would be terminated if she did not give in to his “demands”.

The legislator said that owing to economic pressures more and more women were coming out of their homes to pool into the family income. She said that the moment a girl stepped out of her house for getting education or for work she was harassed in the streets, bus stops, in the public transport, workplaces etc.

MPA Farheen Mughal said that a housemaid was raped and subsequently burnt by the rapist and her family first raised the issue but after getting some money from the culprit’s family the matter was hushed up.

Lala Hassan of the Aurat Foundation said that during the first quarter of the current year as many as 113 cases including 61 rapes, 18 gang rapes, and 34 cases of sexual assaults had been reported from all across the country. He said that 34 rape cases, eight gang rapes and 13 cases of sexual assaults were reported from Punjab while 14 rapes, 10 gang rapes and six assaults were reported from Sindh whereas nine cases of rape and 10 assaults were reported from the NWFP. As many as three rape cases and three cases of sexual assaults were reported from Balochistan while one rape and two assault cases were reported from Islamabad. Similarly, over 119 cases of domestic violence were also reported in the country during the same period, he added.

Nusrat Abbasi and Shamimara Panhwar (MPAs), Nausheen Noor and others also spoke.
Source: Dawn
Date:7/1/2008

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