HYDERABAD: Members of civil society and non-governmental organisations at a session held on Thursday on “sexual harassment and its legal remedies” supported proposed bill of ‘Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace’ and suggested amendment to section 509 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to ensure protection of dignity of women.
The session organised by the Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan was conducted by Dr. Fauzia Saeed, recipient of Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals.
Dr. Fauzia Saeed told participants that women should be confident enough to raise voice if they found anyone staring at them without any reason. “It’s in fact a social issue and it can only be curbed through social control practices,” she said.
She referred to proposed bill of Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace that had been approved by the federal cabinet and concerned standing committees of parliament. It would now be tabled in the National Assembly next month and enough lobbying had already been done to ensure that it the assembly okayed it, she said.
She said that the bill had been drafted after a seven year research by AASHA (Alliance Against Sexual Harassment), an alliance of organisations working against sexual harassment.
She said that the bill would put in place an institutional framework in private organisations so that such issues were effectively handled by the management.
The bill provided for an ombudsperson who could be approached by victim(s).
In private sector, a code of conduct has been devised a three-member probe committee will note its violation.
The law will ensure safeguards for women’s dignity in private sector institutions and provisions for fine of Rs100,000 and termination from service have also been made part of the bill.
Dr. Fauzia Saeed maintained that an amendment to section 509 of PPC had also been proposed so that women could file cases against harassment.
It would be punishable with maximum three years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs500,000, she added.
She said that the proposed bill’s surgery had been done at different levels and now it would be tabled in the assembly.
“AASHA will see how many parliamentarians support or oppose it in the parliament regardless of their party affiliations because we want to have ownership of this bill,” she said.