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Sexual harassment at workplaces: Victims lot no better after the law

ISLAMABAD: A national committee that watches the implementation of the law against sexual harassment at workplaces passed last year has observed that many social, cultural and technical obstacles still stand in the way of implementing the law.

Participants at a review meeting of the national implementation watch committee (NIWC) held in Islamabad on Tuesday regretted that woman workers continue facing intimidation, bullying and verbal attacks.

They regretted that military, judiciary, certain government departments and media houses did not respond to the NIWC`s queries about implementation of the law in their establishments.

“We sent several letters to the army and even the judiciary, several media houses and the Pakistan International Airlines but there was no positive response to our requests for formation of committees which could address the complaints of women related to sexual abuse,” Dr Fauiza Saeed told Dawn .The speakers said that because of traditional methods of data collection, the implementation of the law remained a dream.

Those who spoke on the occasion included Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Anees Haroon, human rights activist Jamil Yousuf and member NCSW Dr Fouzia Saeed.

The NIWC, representing all provinces, was formed by the NCSW on May 10, 2010. It is operating through the regulatory bodies and key umbrella institutions like State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to facilitate the implementation of the legislation.

The law against sexual harassment, which was passed with a great zeal on March 9, 2010. Women however continue suffering condemnable incidents of harassment every day. They suffer more so because they lack awareness of the law and avenues to express themselves.

The NIWC has evolved a web-based mechanism where organisations will generate information about their compliance with the law. They will make compliance with the law by setting up their inquiry committees and announcing a code of conduct.

“This database will enable us to document the implementation of the law in more systematic and calculated way. It will also point out the loopholes where we will further provide advocacy,” said Dr Fouzia Saeed.

This database is an important development towards providing women a more secure environment at their workplaces. The speakers appreciated the role of all partner departments and institutes which were on board and added that the Prime Minister Secretariat was the first one to comply with the law. Four media organisations have also adopted the code and set up inquiry committees for addressing sexual harassment issues.

“We used the conventional methods for assessing the implementation level of this law but it failed to deliver. We cannot gauge the actual parameters by using these old fashioned methods which are in practice for so many years in Pakistan,” said Jamil Yousuf.

The speakers said implementation of the law against sexual harassment would help in ensuring participation of women in national development. “Dynamics of family economics will change if we give women honour, protection and dignity at workplaces.”

Source: Dawn