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Sexual harassment law

This refers to a seminar organised in Karachi on August 09, by the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment, (AASHA), which dealt with the application of the recently implemented ‘Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act-2010’.

Without a doubt, the passage of the above act is a step in the right direction and must be lauded. However, the only caveat is that this has all the ingredients to be misused and that it can become a potent tool in the hands of a delinquent woman worker to harass and blackmail a perfectly unsuspecting and innocent man co-worker. When it comes to being manipulative, conniving, spiteful, vindictive and a revengeful person there is no gender discrimination and divide as, both the men and women, are endowed with the same genetic traits!

Speaking from long personal experience in the corporate world, I have seen it all. Consider a situation when overtures of a woman colleague who develops a crush or infatuation on a male co-worker or her boss, who does not reciprocate and ignores her completely, out of sheer spite and revenge, the man can easily be blackmailed and accused of “sexual harassment”, by the woman employee, thus could be subjected to a real trauma.

Consider another situation wherein a delinquent woman worker who blatantly flouts company rules, is a habitual latecomer, has an intimidating attitude towards other employees, does not follow corporate decorum, frequently engages herself in long and loud conversation over the phone and thus becomes a disruptive influence in a management process and who is also a poor performer.

When she is reprimanded and counselled by her supervisor to be punctual, be civil to colleagues, abide by administrative procedures and who ultimately gets a below par appraisal rating, as a consequence to her unacceptable conduct, disruptive tendencies and poor performance, the above Act could be a handy mechanism for her to get even and accuse, baselessly, the boss of indulging in ‘sexual harassment’ Also consider a third situation wherein a woman co-worker has a consensual romantic relationship with a man colleague or her boss. For some reasons, the relationship goes sour. A revengeful woman, out of sheer spite, can accuse the man colleague of sexual harassment and make his life miserable. Fatal attraction can be just as fatal!

In the context of sexual harassment and associated criminality, it is worth mentioning the famous case of Mukhtaraan Mai, who had attained global fame after having accused a number of individuals of her village, belonging to a different tribe to have committed her gang rape, under the ruling of a village jirga. The case of Mukhtaraan Mai ultimately ended up in the Supreme Court, which not only dismissed her allegations as being baseless, without sustainable solid evidence, but also exonerated the accused individuals, the alleged perpetrators of gang rape, and of any wrongdoing!

The accusation of sexual harassment should be based and duly supported by strong, irrefutable and concrete evidence and not just a verbal hearsay narration. Organisations, promoting women’s rights and the rest of the zealot, champions of women’s right and protection against sexual harassment need to be careful, not go over – board by playing to the gallery to pick up Brownie points and be cognisant of the relative and possible actions, emanating and triggered by revengeful trait and vindictive behaviour. The above referred to, Act, has all the potential to be extensively misused to harass and blackmail an innocent male colleague and a co-worker. These organisations need to be sensitive, credible and aware of the real and possible situations mentioned above, for these are not based on fiction.

A former corporate executive
Source: Business Recorder