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Jail term proposed for electronic harassment of women

By: Mehtab Haider

ISLAMABAD: The government has proposed to impose a one-year jail term on those who harass women through mobile phones, emails and other electronic communications.

As electronic harassment against women has increased the government has taken a decision to introduce laws providing for one-year imprisonment and fines to penalize such crimes. Under the legislation bill titled Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which will be tabled before parliament, a copy of which is available with The News, new provisions are there for special protection of women and girls.

The draft law states that; “whoever, with malicious and criminal intent, knowingly transmits any electronic communication that threatens sexual acts against a woman; superimposes a photograph of the face of a woman over any sexuality explicit images; distorts the face of a woman; or includes a photograph or a video of a woman in sexuality explicit conduct, without the express or implied consent of the woman in question, intending that such electronic communication be exhibited publicly and malicious intent that such electronic communication cause that woman injury or threaten injury to her good reputation, her existing state of privacy or put her in fear for her safety and such electronic communication in fact has such effect, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

“This law will be applicable provided that it shall not be an offence under this section if the electronic communication is an exercise of the freedom of expression or the electronic communication is an expression of opinion, antipathy, dislike, ridicule, criticism, satire or political comment or is analogous to the first, second or third exceptions under section 499 of the Pakistan Penal Code Act, 1908.

It continues: “Provided further that the term “woman” in this section refers to any female regardless of her age who must either be a complainant herself or in the event she is minor, her legal guardian must be the complainant”.

In order to enforce the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, the draft law states that the federal government will be empowered to designate the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), any other law-enforcing agency or establish any new law enforcement agencies as the special investigation agency for the purposes of investigation and prosecution of offences under this Act.

“No warrant, arrest, search, seizure or other power not provided for in the Act – (1) No person whether a police officer, investigation officer or otherwise, other than an investigating officer of the special investigation agency shall investigate an offence with respect to, in connection with or under this Act. No person other than a prosecutor assigned by the special investigating agency shall prosecute any offence with respect to, in connection with or under this Act”.

The News