Sexual Harassment Rampant in Pakistan Workplaces

by Savitha C Muppala on  September 22, 2010 at 8:25 PM Women Health News   - G J E 4
Even though an anti-sexual harassment law is active in Pakistan since March, it appears that working women still brave sexual harassment at their places of work.
 Sexual Harassment Rampant in Pakistan Workplaces
Sexual Harassment Rampant in Pakistan Workplaces

The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill 2010 is aimed at creating a working environment for women free from harassment, abuse and intimidation.

Punishment for the guilty or violators of a code of conduct ranges from a censure to dismissal to an unspecified fine.

However, women are still resigning from their jobs because of being asked for sexual favours.

One of them, Nadia, said that a co-worker had spread rumours about her being sexually available, causing everyone at work to harass her.

"When the harassment started, I was confused about my own behaviour, thinking that maybe I was doing something wrong. I tried to be more reserved, even though my moderate upbringing has taught me not to discriminate or distinguish while talking to men or women," she said.

Nadia resigned from her job, but the colleague responsible for the situation went unpunished.

Advocate Atiqur Rehman confirmed that such cases were difficult to address, and said that the harassment law was not highly developed.

"In such cases, the evidence will be hearsay. Therefore, a significantly higher burden of proof will be required. Any weakness on the part of a complainant or witness can sabotage the case," The Daily Times quoted Rehman, as saying.

The law also seems to fail for women who work at factories or as domestic helps, as they are easily replaceable.

The domestic workers are generally not registered with any organization and are hired on a verbal contract.

Sania, who used to work as a packing girl at a factory, was dismissed when she refused to provide a sexual favour to her supervisor.

She tried to lodge a complaint with the management about the issue, but she was not given any consideration, as labour is cheap and readily available in the country.

Source: ANI

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Even though Pakistan has a law against sexual harrassment in the workplace, it will not be effective if women employees do not have access to competent and honest attorneys and women's organisations that are willing to take up their cases. Pakistan's Alliance Against Sexual Harrassment [AASHA] lists a large multinational pharmaceutical company as a "progressive employer" even though the company fired me for filing a sexual harrassment complaint against my supervisor. I informed AASHA about it but the organisation neither replied to me nor removed the company's name from its list of "progressive employers." So much for mobilising organisations for victims of sexual harrassment. Asma Siddiqi
Asma11 Tuesday, February 8, 2011

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