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Parliament asked to adopt women protection bill

ISLAMABAD, Dec 18: The Senate Standing Committee on Women Development has called for an early adoption of the proposed ‘Protection against harassment at the workplace bill — 2008’ by the Parliament to pave the way for establishing an institutional mechanism to end the violence against women.

A meeting of the Senate body held here on Thursday under the chairpersonship of Senator Tahira Latif also urged zero tolerance to violence against women in all forms and manifestations.

Participants of the meeting acknowledged that violence against women was so deep-rooted in society that intellectual debates at elitist fora alone would not be able to serve the purpose unless backed up by solid legislation and concrete action coupled with awareness campaigns.

The meeting expressed its dismay over the revelation that prevalence of sexual harassment at factories, particularly of the garments, pharma industry, packaging and knit wear, was over 90 per cent and it was at here that large number of women were employed. The same goes for women working at brick kilns, and domestic maid servants, it was shared at the meeting.

The meeting underscored the need for change in attitudes and mindset of the society, particularly in the rural areas of the country where bulk of the population lives.

Earlier, the committee was informed that the Ministry of Women Development, women activists, NGOs, HR organisations and other stakeholders from across the country had been consulted to improve and fine-tune the contents of the bill.

It covers both the formal and informal sectors. The bill, among other things, seeks to bind every organisation to set up a three-member regulatory body, with at least one woman in it, to conduct inquiries into complaints of harassment against women.

Moreover, members of the committee stressed for the need of proper mechanism and relevant clauses in the draft bill to preclude the possibility of any misuse by either sex and it was suggested that women organisations and NGOs might be asked to develop documentaries on how to seek redressal in case of harassment/violence and to screen the same in rural areas of the country.

The participants emphasised that proper measures needed to be taken to ensure that police did not side with the perpetrators of crimes against women. The meeting urged the government to provide more funds and staff to the Ministry of Women Development for undertaking this venture.

Minister for Information Sherry Rehman assured the Senate body of her ministry’s full cooperation with the women development ministry and other organisations working for the rights of women, especially with regard to preparation of media campaign for sensitisation.

She said it was desire of the government that bill should originate in the Senate. She hoped that the vetting/amendments being made by the Law Division would not defeat the original purpose of the bill, adding that the government would continue to accord priority to welfare of women.

The meeting was also attended by Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Raza Rabbani and Senators Sardar Jamal Khan Leghari, Muhammad Ayaz Khan Jogezai, Ms Razina Alam Khan and Ms Fauzia Fakhur-uz-Zaman.
Source: Dawn