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Sexual harassment at workplaces Women urged to raise voice, form groups to protect themselves

Karachi: Speakers at a seminar stressed raising awareness among the masses of the act which protects women against sexual harassment at workplace, and called for its implementation.

The event was organised by the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA) at the Arts Council.

Justice (Retired) Majida Rizvi said that the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010, was formed after much struggle as men were not ready to accept it.

The same, she said, was the case with the domestic violence bill which was rejected by the Senate, which, she claimed, was done so that violence remained inside the four walls of the home.

She said that women should be informed about their rights at the workplace, about their salary, and their responsibilities, as only then they would be able to work effectively.

She urged women to raise their voice against any kind of harassment, be it pinching, giving obscene signals or abusing them, saying that though they sound minor offenses, they are not and are considered a crime. She said that women should unite and form groups to achieve their rights.

Karamat Ali from Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) spoke on the rights of home-based workers and domestic workers. He said that home-based workers had no rights, and were forced to turn their homes into workplace. He said that laws should be made to protect them.

Speaking on the issue of domestic workers, comprising 80 percent women, he said that they should be given the government-stipulated minimum wage for labourers, and employers should register them with Employees Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI).

Aqsa Khan, Executive Director, Women’s Organization for Rights and Development (WORD), briefly described the law, and said that it ensured that a three-member inquiry committee to deal with sexual harassment be formed in every private and government organisation.

In case there is no such code of conduct, the employees can take their organisation to court, and fine them for Rs100,000.

“This law promotes the culture of zero tolerance against sexual harassment,” she said, and those who are not satisfied with the inquiry report can go to Mohtasib, and seek help of the state. The Amendments in PPC 509, which carries a prison of three years and a fine of Rs500,000, recognizes sexual harassment as a crime.

She said that it was highly welcome that women were coming forward with such complaints, as a case in the Punjab University, and two in Quaid-e-Azam University had been lodged against teachers for sexual harassing female students.

Artiste Sheema Kirmani emphasised that the attitudes of the masses should be changed, as a woman in our society is not considered equal to a man.

“The look which a woman gets as soon as she steps outside her threshold clearly shows that she is not given an equal status.”

She said that the right to work is the right of every woman, and women should work not only because they are financially constrained but because they want to utilise their creativity and their potential.

Former CPLC chief Jameel Yusuf said that the act was a positive sign from the government, and it should be promoted, as it could undo terrorism.

“Women workers are very dedicated, and once parents have confidence that their daughters are working in a safe environment, more women will start working.”

He called for employment opportunities to be provided to the disabled, and cited an example of his organization, where a disabled woman proved to be the most efficient.

He hoped that the media which has been slow in advocating implementation of the act would provide a friendly environment with dignity and grace to their female employees.

Vice-president of the Federation Of Pakistan Chambers Of Commerce Industry (FPCC&I) Dawood Jakhura, said that making laws was not difficult. Ensuring their implementation was.

He said that women should get security at their workplace, which will ensure more women to step outside their homes, and work. He said that awareness should be there in the garment and pharmaceutical companies.

Representing the trade unions, Qamar-ul-Hasan said that the two ministries, the Women’s Development Department the Labour Ministry should own this act. He called for the sensitisation of trade unions towards women.

Source: The News

Date:8/10/2011

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