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Public sector tops in sexual harassment

Public sector tops in sexual harassment

By: JAMAL SHAHID

ISLAMABAD: Mystifying, but it is official. More woman workers fall victim to sexual harassment in the government sector than in the private sector.

This emerged from the number of complaints received by the office of the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace.

Since its establishment in 2011, the court of the Federal Ombudsman has received 160 cases of harassment and disposed of 153. Seven cases are under process.

That government departments score high in debauchery, when job insecurity is higher in the private sector, is baffling. It would be natural for a victim to suppress her rage for fear of losing her job.

“Job insecurity in the private sector is the main reason why women and men alike do not come forward with complaints of being harassed,” observed Registrar of the office, Chaudhry Aziz Iqbal.

It could be that the very security that a government job provides emboldens the perpetrator to misbehave and his victim to raise her voice.

Chaudhry Aziz said the government and the private organisations were not doing enough to make their employee aware of the law that protects them against sexual harassment in a work environment.

“That is the biggest challenge for our office,” he told Dawn.

“The law obliges the management of organisations, both in the public and private sectors, to display the Code of Conduct in English, as well as in the language understood by most of their employees, at conspicuous places in the organisations.”

Most of the complaints about harassment came to the office from women working in the education sector across the country.

The court of the Federal Ombudsman has decided 18 of them, the highest number among the cases from all the sectors adjudicated by the court.

Some prominent incidents of sexual harassment happened in Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, and Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.

Employees of the state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation each registered four cases, as did three employees of Lok Virsa, a cultural entity, two employees of the Alternate Energy Development Department and one each of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Pakistan Television (PTV).

A senior officer of the government of Pakistan had charged a Southeast Asian diplomat of the crime, disclosed a source in the office of the Federal Ombudsman against sexual harassment at workplaces.

“He was held guilty and had to return to his country,” said the source.

A journalist’s complaint of sexual harassment is pending with the office of the Federal Ombudsman.

Chaudhry Aziz Iqbal said individuals working in the private sector registered 13 cases.

“Men and women in the private sector were equally productive citizens and no harm should come to an individual’s dignity,” he said.

After the Ombudsman’s court held two senior professors of the Quaid-i-Azam University guilty as charged by their students, the university administration engaged NGOs, put up posters, and held seminars to educate its faculty and students of their duties and legal rights.

“But those posters and Code of Conduct copies are nowhere to be seen today. They should have stayed up on the walls and notice boards,” said a senior official in the QAU administration, suggesting that the fight against sexual harassment needed to go on.

In the private sector, the Code of Conduct is not found displayed in most corporate offices.

A Telenor official explained that the company policy explains the code to the employees at the time of induction but it is not displayed. The same was true in Mobilink.

According to the office of the Federal Ombudsman, some government ministries and divisions had publicly displayed the Code of Conduct.

DAWN

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