Legal Protection Against Women Harassment in Pakistan

Advocate Faisal Nasir

Harassment can be defined as any offensive act committed against an individual’s will, instilling fear in them, depending on the situation, or disturbing someone’s comfort zone. It can be physical, psychological, or emotional, and the victim can come from any walk of life, but women’s harassment is the most contentious.

We live in a male-dominated society where women are thought to be inferior to men in terms of status. This aspect of female discrimination is one of the elements that is closely related to female harassment. This is why organizations on a national and global scale began working for women’s empowerment to eliminate the element of gender discrimination. Although most of the goals have been achieved after long struggles, the ratio of working women to men remains very low because in such a male-dominated society, women are subject to harassment almost every day and most of the cases remain unreported officially due to the women’s fear of losing honor and dignity in the society. Harassment is an illegal act that is prohibited by all human rights laws, but it is on the rise at an alarming rate. There are many factors that contribute to harassment, such as the men’s background, where they were raised, and the literacy rate, but the problem exists not only in places where literacy is low, but also in offices and public places where men hold good positions due to their education, such as schools (private and public sectors), government offices, hospitals, and so on.

Legal Protection Against Women Harassment in Pakistan

Anti-Harassment Laws in Asia:

Following the example of European countries, several Asian states have enacted legislation to address sexual harassment offences. Sri Lanka, for example, amended its penal code and inserted sections relating to women harassment, while Bangladesh enacted the “violence against women and children act, 2000,” and the Philippines enacted the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act, 1995 to prohibit sexual harassment.

Legal Protection for Women Against Harassment in Pakistan:

Laws are made and implemented for the betterment of society and the protection of innocent people from acts that are strictly prohibited or violate social norms. When it comes to women’s laws, there are regulations that have been properly enacted and implemented by the government that protect women in different social contexts, such as family laws. As previously discussed, women’s harassment is one of the most serious issues confronted by women in today’s world, and it deserves much more attention due to its importance. To protect women from harassment The “Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010” was implemented, and it establishes penalties for harassment offences. It protects women from sexual harassment at work. The act’s provisions outline the procedure for filing a complaint, conducting an investigation, and announcing punishment if found guilty. The act aims to create a healthy environment for women at their workplaces, whether government or private, so that women can work freely. The main features of “The protection against harassment of women at workplace Act, 2010” which provide a shield to women against harassment are discussed below.

General Features:

  1. Not everyone in society is well aware of the laws, but everyone understands the reasons for the enactment of such special laws and fears the consequences of violating them. The “Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010” instils in the general public the fear that harassing a woman can put them in trouble. This act has provided women with some protection from being abused at work and allows them to perform to the best of their abilities without fear of harassment, and if such a case arises, a forum for lodging a complaint has been provided.
  2. The act makes various methods of harassing a female employee at work illegal, including abuse of authority, the creation of a hostile environment, and retaliation.
  3. The complainant/victim of harassment has the option of filing a complaint in an informal or formal manner.
  4. The act’s provisions limit the accused’s powers when he is higher in rank than the complainant. In such a case, the accused may not use his or her power arbitrarily against the complainant.

Flaws in the Law:

The enactment of the “Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010” is a significant step forward in combating workplace harassment of women in Pakistan, but the neglected aspects and ongoing issues persist, as discussed in the following points:

  1. The first important factor that was overlooked when formulating the law is that it only provides relief to working women at specific workplaces while excluding all other women who are subjected to harassment outside of the workplace. The scope of the “Protection against harassment of women at work Act, 2010” is limited to the workplace, and if harassment is caused by someone who is not a part of the workplace, he cannot be sued because of the act’s limited scope. In general, harassment can occur anywhere, whether it is a workplace, a shopping mall, a tuition center, or any other public or private location.
  2. While the existing law protects female employees, if a female victim of harassment is not an employee, she cannot sue under the law. Students at schools, colleges, and universities have also been reported to be harassed, but the existing law does not cover them due to its limited scope.Legal Protection Against Women Harassment in Pakistan

Policy Recommendations

Harassment is a much broader offence than the “Protection against harassment of women at work Act, 2010” makes it out to be. Harassment includes any act that is against a woman’s will, such as staring, unwanted touch, following her in public, or any other act that is against her will. The flaws in the law can be addressed by amending the law and enacting a new, more powerful law that protects both working women and general women who face harassment on a daily basis. Penal provisions can be added to the country’s penal code to expedite proceedings against the accused, and given the sensitivity of the situation, a counter penalty should be added if the harassment allegations are proven to be false. According to research, harassment in the general public occurs in crowded places where both the victim and the accused are unfamiliar with one another. As a result, a special force or a team of police officers comprised of both male and female officers should be deployed in all areas where women congregate in order for the general public to be afraid of committing any indecent act against a woman.

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