Pakistan: Sexual Harassment Act in place, but fears of reporting remain

Publication Date: 
April 14, 2011
Pakistani human rights activists hold candles as they shout slogans during a rally in Lahore on March 7, 2011.

ISLAMABAD: Despite the introduction of Harassment Act 2010 in the country, most women are more afraid of repercussions which may cause them to loose their job or face retaliation, so they save themselves by remaining quite.

Women are hesitant of lodging complaints as they feel they would face abusive language, forced late sitting, unnecessary work load and rumors about their characters.

Talking to APP Chairperson National Implementation Watch Committee on Harassment, Dr Fauzia Saeed said, “Whatever lip service we do and how much we show ourselves committed to the cause of women, the fact is that women issues receive lowest priority in our system. Pakistani society is a male dominated society and men here have rigid conservative ideas about women and can never treat them on an equal level. It’s not about illiterate rural men only, but also about educated, urbanised, sophisticated men sitting in big offices.”

The Protection Against Harassment of Women At The Work Place Act 2010 defines harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or written communication creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive work environment.

Talking to APP, Rehana Batool, who works in a government organisation said the issues of harassment in any organisation need to be addressed on priority till the decisions are implemented but unfortunately it is not so.

“First, if a few big names are involved then it becomes impossible to call them for inquiry or conduct proper inquiry. In the law, there is a role of management to protect the complainant but management usually tries to keep itself away from any conflicting situation,” she maintained.

Batool was of the view that there is a need to give implementation responsibility to the competent authority that should make an inquiry committee answerable in case of non compliance.

“Laws are made to improve the situation but only if there exists a proper mechanism to implement them. The need is to revisit this law from the implementation point of view and bring forward a sound and sustainable mechanism so it may not remain a law only on papers,” she said.