By Ijaz Kakakhel
ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Saturday asked the government to do legislation to curb increasing cases of sexual harassment in NGOs and international NGOs.
Although the motion tabled by the Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Professor Khurshid Ahmad was not adopted, Senate Chairman Farooq H Naek said the matter is of public importance and needs proper legislation.
Moving an adjournment motion, Senator Ahmad told the House that the number of sexual harassment cases in NGOs and INGOs are on the rise, posing problems for female employees. He said the government had already passed a law against sexual harassment but it was only applicable to government departments/organisations and female factory workers.
The JI senator said the number of NGOs had increased “tremendously”, adding, “In Lahore alone, around 1,000 such organisations are working.”
“Why don’t those women who work at factories and public and private offices get proper treatment? Islam teaches us to respect women and give them a proper status in society.”
He said that a number of complaints of sexual harassment of female workers are pending with the ombudsman’s office. He demanded that the law on sexual harassment be also imposed on NGOs and INGOs.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said it was not the mandate of the Ministry of Human Rights to regulate the NGO sector. “The ministry has to honour commitments which the government makes with international organisations,” said the adviser, adding that there are 571 non-government organisations working across the country.
He said that all public and private organisations are bound to form a three-member committee to address complaints of sexual harassment. “The ombudsman’s office is also dealing with such cases,” the adviser said and objected to the privilege motion moved by Senator Ahmad.
However, Nawaz Khokhar assured the House that action would be taken against those involved in sexual harassment of women. “This is a serious issue that the government should address.”
Senator Ishaq Dar said that the adjournment motion should not be opposed merely on the basis of jurisdiction.
Leader of the House Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari said parliament has already passed a law against sexual harassment at workplace. “And if there is need for any amendment to it, senators should bring a bill to the House,” he said, adding that under the rules of business and procedure, a matter which could be addressed through legislation should not be taken on an adjournment motion.
On this, Senator Ahmad did not press his privilege motion.