Harassment at the workplace:- Misbah Ahmed

Harassment is a global issue and topic of discussion due to its adverse effects on the victims and on society in general. This is not a gender-specific issue but most of the research attributes women to be victims of harassment in various societies. I would like to highlight various elements, which could help in eliminating or otherwise aggravating harassment at workplaces.
Management of harassment at the workplace is an important task for the manager because harassment once occurred can cause serious problems. It can create physical and psychological problems for the victim and can cause reputational harm and financial loss to restaurants or brands. The worst thing which a brand/restaurant can face as a result of harassment at the workplace is litigation in the court of law. Pakistan’s shopping malls are also witnessing harassment experiences whether in the form of staring, sexual comments, molestation, and some form of unwanted physical contact.

The seriousness of this issue has forced Pakistan’s Government to promulgate a new law named “Protection against Harassment of women at the workplace” in the year 2010. Now, this law is in force in Pakistan but still, harassment remains a common complaint especially for females. To safeguard the concerns of these working females at Pakistan’s workplace or shopping mall.
Harassment has remained a widespread problem in the country. It has especially been high among domestic workers, salesgirls, 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 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 harassment in a better way and provides for enhanced punishment under Section 509 of PPC. The Harassment Law requires displaying the code of conduct in an organization, forming a three-member inquiry committee, and holding an 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 the 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 the 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 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 organization’s compliance with the legislation.
A web-based database titled ‘Sexual Harassment Watch’ has also been launched where organizations share compliance information with other organizations. Police in Punjab province also have also been given training on the application of section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and were advised to register sexual harassment cases under section 509 instead of section 107 of the Code.

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