Making the office a safer place -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Making the office a safer place

By PEER MUHAMAMD

ISLAMABAD: Employees must realise that if the management of their organisation is not complying with anti-sexual harassment legislation, they have the right to take the organisation to court.

This was stated by Advocate Rukhsana Kousar of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA) Legal Aid Centre on Sunday. She was speaking at the conclusion of a three-day training session on anti-sexual harassment legislation. Parliament enacted the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010, but most organisations have yet to integrate the law into their human resources policies.

Participants at the training session underlined the need to create awareness among employees and employers about anti-sexual harassment laws to ensure a decent and safe environment for women. They also urged the government and non-government organisations to take practical steps to enforce the law across the board.

The participants comprised of many mixed stakeholders that included human resources personnel from international organisations, employees of legal departments, inquiry committee members and gender focal persons from civil society organisations, media personnel and lawyers.

They agreed that there is an urgent need to create awareness among employees and employers in all organisations and educational institutions as well as private workplaces that a law protecting them from sexual harassment in the workplace exists.

The training session provided the opportunity for male and female participants to understand the point of view of the opposite gender. Many participants agreed that the view from the other side changed their perspective and attitude towards the issue.

Once they were clear on what sexual harassment entails, the participants were given a detailed lecture on the two laws promulgated to curb sexual harassment: Protection Against Harassment of Women at Work Place Act 2010, which applies to the formal work sector, and an amendment to section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which applies to the public and private sectors.

The participants were told that even though the name of the legislation itself is Protection Against Harassment of Women at Work Place Act 2010, the Act uses the word ‘person’ in its text and applies equally to men, women and children.

With regard to the law promulgated for the formal sector, all the participants stressed that the management of an organisation has the responsibility to implement the Act at their workplaces, but it is the responsibility of the employees to ensure that their organisation implements the law and to take violators to court, in which case, the organisation in question would be fined between Rs25,000 and Rs100,000 if it is not in compliance with the legislation.

The participants were also given details about the implementation of this law through the National Implementation Watch Committee.

Source: The Express Tribune

Date:9/27/2011