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NA enacts law to protect honour of working women

By Muhammad Anis

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2009 which is aimed at making public and work environment safer for women, amid apprehensions from some members that it could be misused, resulting in lesser job opportunities for women.

According to the bill, a person insulting modesty of a woman or causing sexual harassment at workplace or public place would be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or fine up to Rs 500,000 or both.

The bill was moved by Minister of State for Law and Justice Muhammad Afzal Sindhu. The majority of parliamentarians welcomed the passage of the bill but a few members, including Riaz Hussain Pirzada and Tahir Rasheed, apprehended that it could be misused and employers may refuse jobs to women.

Tahir Rasheed observed the intentions of the bill are good but it could be misused, particularly in rural areas where opposing families would drag each other in fake cases on the basis of this bill to settle their old scores.

According to objectives of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2009, it will not only make public and work environment safe for women but will also open the path for more women to earn livelihood with dignity. It will reduce poverty as more and more women will get the courage to enter the job market. Its objectives say the amendment takes the spirit of the Pakistan Penal Code forward and makes it more usable for women in cases of insults, humiliation and intimidation.

According to the bill, whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, exhibits, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman shall be punishable.

The amendment further says whoever conducts sexual advances, or demands sexual favours or uses verbal or non-verbal communication or displays physical conduct of a sexual nature which intends to annoy, insult, intimidate or threaten the other person or commits such acts on the premises of workplace would also be punished with imprisonment extending to 3 years or up to Rs 500,000 fine or with both.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said the passage of the bill will go a long way in the protection of women at their workplaces. Anoshy Rehman of the PML-N, Sherry Rehman of the PPP, Haider Abbas Rizvi of the MQM and other members welcomed the passage of the bill, saying it would go a long way in protecting honour and dignity of the working women.

Sherry Rehman suggested that there should be a woman ombudsman where such cases could be taken. Anoshy Rehman observed that it would also safeguard the dignity of poor womenfolk, who earn their bread by working at houses.
Source: The News

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