Sexual Harassment in Pakistan in 2011
Sexual harassment has remained a widespread problem in the country. Harassment has especially been high among domestic workers, students and nurses. In a survey conducted by the Daily Times in August 2010, female government and private-sector employees complained about the abusive and harassing behavior of their male colleagues as well as senior officials.
In March 2010, the government passed two laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act amended the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, making workplace harassment against women punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of 500,000 rupees or both. The new law defines sexual harassment in a better way and provides for enhanced punishment under Section 509 of PPC. The Sexual Harassment Law requires displaying the code of conduct in an organization, forming of a three-member inquiry committee and holding awareness seminar for its staff.
National Implementation Watch Committee (NIWC), constituted by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) in May 2010 on the directive of Prime Minister, was formed to ensure the rigorous implementation of the law across the country and it has taken some steps in that regard. The National Implementation Watch Committee planned later this year to visit the public, private, educational and civil society institutions, randomly, in order to monitor the compliance of this Act. NIWC operates through regulatory bodies and key umbrella institutions like Establishment Division, State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to facilitate the implementation of the legislation.
The committee comprises representatives from public & private sectors, civil society organizations and media. It holds its meetings after every 3-4 months to determine the status of implementation for this law. In its visits, the committee checks whether posters regarding the code of conduct are displayed in an organization or not and whether employees are aware of their organisation’s compliance with the legislation.
A web-based database titled ‘Sexual Harassment Watch’ has also been launched where organizations share the compliance information with other organizations. Police in Punjab province also has also been given training on application of section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and were advise to register sexual harassment cases under section 509 instead of section 107 of the Code.
The Aurat Foundation, working for women rights for the last 25 years, suspended a senior male staff member over allegation of sexual harassment of a female colleague. A similar harassment incident took place in the organization some time ago. (May 2011)
After many complaints of harassment lodged by the female students, the University of Peshawar has decided to reduce the power of internal examiners to tackle the issue of harassment and exploitation of students by University teachers/examiners. University has planned to set up a separate department to conduct examinations and hire the relevant staff. The chances of sexual harassment increase when an examiner has the power of 100 percent marking. Students had complained that those having good relations with teachers were getting as high marks as possible while competent students were given only average marks. The university has decided that now the seventy percent of evaluation will be done by external examiners and 30% by internal examiners. (July 2011)
A lecturer and controller examinations of the Quaid-e-Azam University were forcefully retired on charges of sexual harassment filed by the female students. They failed to prove themselves innocent before the members of inquiry committee and thus were fired. (August 2011)
A driver of Federal Directorate of Education was dismissed by the Federal Ombudsman for Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace in August this year. A female teacher had lodged complaint against him for misbehaving with her. The track record of the driver revealed that he was earlier involved in similar harassment activities. However, earlier victims remained quiet as there was no mechanism available for lodging complaint against such acts. The victims can directly report to the Federal or provincial Ombudsperson if they feel that the departmental inquiry committee can’t do justice. (August 2011)
The Federal Ombudsperson for Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace, has imposed Rs100,000 fine on Station Manager PIA Islamabad on the charges of sexual harassment of a Passenger Services Officer of his office. She had complained that the officer had tried to sexually harass her and on failure threatened the victim of severe consequences. (September 2011)
A female pilot has filed a writ petition in Lahore High Court accusing higher officers in PIA of sexually harassing female subordinates and coworkers. She also submitted that she had earlier complained to the PIA standing committee on women development however no action had been taken so far. (October 2011)
The Peshawar High Court, in a decision, directed the KPK government to replace the director of probation and reclamation after some female officers accused him of sexually harassing them. The Chief Justice, Peshawar High Court had taken a suo-motto action on a complaint from four female probation officers. The Court further directed that a new post of Deputy Chief Probation Officer may be created and that all female probation officers may be placed under her direct supervision. (December 2011).