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Sexual Harassment And Anti-Harassment Laws In Pakistan

Harassment covers a wide range of behaviours of an vituperative nature. It is commonly understood as behaviour that disrespect, demeans, humiliate or embarrasses a person and it is characteristically identified by its unlikelihood in terms of social and moral reasonableness.

Legally these are behaviour that appear to be stressing, disturbing, upsetting or threatening. When contact from others becomes inappropriate, excessive or intimidating it can leave you feeling distressed, upset and even fearful. Individuals are increasingly being threatened, harassed and blackmailed by people around them. Harassment could be of many types but one of the most common type of harassment is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is an offensive or humiliating behaviour that is related to a person’s sex, it can be verbal or physical. It involves mostly unwanted and unwelcome words, deeds, actions, gestures, symbols or sexual behaviour that make the victim or target feel uncomfortable. Sexual harassment occur in variety of circumstances and places like schools, colleges, theaters, factories, and offices often the harasser has or is about to have power or authority over the victim. Harasser can be anyone such as client, co-worker, relative, friend, teacher, student or a stranger.

Sexual harassment is a well known social problem in this modern world today and different crimes are generating with the emerging new technologies. In most cases (although not in all cases) it is difficult for the victim to describe what they experienced. This can be due to the difficulty classifying the situation or could be related to stress and humiliation. With the advent of the internet and social interaction the online harassment is moving towards its peak. According to the statistics presented by Madadgaar National Helpline 1098 and National Commission For Children, Pakistan is among countries where around 70% of women and girls have experienced violence by their partners and around 93% of women have experienced different forms of sexual misconduct and harassment in public places in their lifetime. According to the same helpline over 9000 women and children have asked for protection but mostly women and girls can not stand up for their rights because of the families norms and still in our society people blame women in these situations due to thus they bear all these things and live their lives in fear of threats, harassment and blackmailing or they commit suicide. However, a rather positive element which comes from the reported figures is that many women and children did come forward and this is a huge step towards catalyzing a much needed social change, especially in countries such as Pakistan.

What can Pakistani do when they find themselves to be victims of sexual harassment or know someone who has faced this horrible situation? Some laws under the Pakistan Penal code 1860 provide for the accused to be held liable and sentenced with either imprisonment, a heavy fine or even a death sentence. These laws are for both women and men because victim of sexual harassment can be both. Under section 509 of Pakistan Penal code 1860 if a person insults a women regarding her modesty, whether through gestures or words the perpetrator can be charged with three years of imprisonment or with a fine or both.

A person who does something that is considered indecent and vulgar, including singing a song with vulgar lyrics, shall be liable under section 354A of Pakistan Penal code 1860 and shall be imprisoned for three months or may be given a fine or both. A person who assault s a women uses physical force against her or strips her of her clothes for public to see, shall be liable under section 534-A of Pakistan Penal code 1860. The accused may be given a death sentence or imprisoned for lifetime. Some laws which can be useful for women in work places include the Protection Against Harassment Of Women At Workplace Act 2010. The statute is considered to be one of the latest developments in Pakistani law and define harassment as: “Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply with such request or is made a condition for employment” The statute also introduces the system of inquiry committee which shall consist of three members of which one of them must be women. This inquiry committee shall be set up by an organisation or company which receives complaints from workers regarding harassment.

The mandate can be found under Section 3 of Protection Against Harassment Of Women At Workplace Act 2010. Section 4 of the same statute introduces various forms of penalties against the perpetrator. Some of these penalties include censorship, compensation by the perpetrator through payment or fine,suspension, removal or early retirement of the perpetrator from the company or demotion to lower post.

As now days many girls are facing problems of threatening and blackmailing from their partners and also from friends and this Is ruining their lives because they do not know where to go to seek help and they fulfill the demands of blackmailers in a fear of leaking out their personal information, photos and videos and due to this fear they are doing more and more wrong things which give up hand to the blackmailers. According to the Prevention Of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 anyone who uses any information to harm another person or their reputation shall be held liable and punished with three years in prison, or with fine or both. Under the same Act a person who posts information to tarnish another person’s reputation, especially women’s reputation to blackmail or create hatred for the victim shall be imprisoned for five years or may be fined for five million rupees or both.

Similarly a person who takes the victims pictures or videos and displays them on internet so that the victim gets harmed, may be given a punishment of 3 years in prison or a heavy fine or both. With the introduction of such laws, Pakistan seems to be moving ahead in becoming a more progressive country. However, even with the existence of such laws, many women and men are still unable to stand up for themselves and leave back the fears. It is mainly due to the lack of awareness of these laws and their rights or the fear of social stigma and family norms, which is why we are failing to address the issue of harassment once and for all. It is hoped that with the changing times and with the help of awareness campaigns , the issue of harassment can be minimized.

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