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Businesses to enforce law against harassment

ISLAMABAD: Thousands of business entities in Islamabad and Rawalpindi will take active steps for enforcing law to protect women against harassment at workplace.

The assurance was held out by representatives of the chambers of commerce and industry of Islamabad and Rawalpindi at the launching of a report, “Leaders of change: drawing lessons from case studies of organisations with anti-sexual harassment policies” here on Monday. The event was arranged by Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (Aasha), a coalition of around a dozen civil society organisations working jointly to promote women`s rights.

Mehfoz Elahi, president Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), Samina Fazil, president Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) and Mian Mohammad Attique, vice president Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), assured that they would ask their members to implement the law in their organisations. Terming the legislation a milestone in Pakistan`s history, they said it would not only make it convenient for women to access public and work spaces but also help change people`s mindset on women`s rights.

Margaret Reads Rounds, acting country director of International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Pakistan, said sexual harassment at workplace was increasingly being recognised as an occupational hazard and a violation of human rights, seriously undermining equality of opportunity and treatment between men and women in Pakistan.

She said the Employers Federation of Pakistan was sensitising employers on the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010. She added that 54 employers in Pakistan have endorsed compliance with the act.

“I am pleased to note that under one of our pilot projects `decent transport for working women` we are seeing changes in behaviours of transporters, bus drivers, conducters and male passengers on a pilot route of 10 public vans in Rawalpindi.” She said they were waking up to respecting rights of female passengers to travel safely.

Dr Fouzia Saeed, founding member of Aasha, said there were no laws that specifically defined sexual harassment or took sexual harassment at workplace into account until early 2010 when the government passed an amendment to section 509 of the PPC making sexual harassment in any location a crime.

Source: Dawn