PILER Welcomes Bill on Harassment
Calls for Across the Board Implementation of the Act
Karachi, March 10, 2010: The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research welcomed the signing of ‘Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill, 2010’. The Bill was recently passed by the National Assembly and the Senate following active movement by the civil society to push the Act.
“It is an important step and we welcome it for its potential to establish workplace safety and standards of conduct, to ensure protection of women workers engaged in the formal economic sector,” said Executive Director PILER Mr Karamat Ali. The Bill incorporates extensive inputs from diverse range of civil society organisations, including women’s rights organisations, legal experts, labour rights bodies and human rights leaders. PILER contributed to the consultation process pursued by concerned ministries and legislators to develop the Bill.
“Harassment at workplace not only discourages women from joining workforce, thus damaging the cause of equal opportunity for women in economic activity, it also causes immense distress to the victims compromising their rights and wellbeing,” said Mr Karamat Ali. “The reason behind pushing for broader definition of elements related to harassment, the provision of a code of conduct and an internal and external inquiry system for pursuing such cases, is to ensure women’s access to a wider range of protections at workplace.”
The PILER Executive Director pointed to the challenges involved in the implementation of the Act. “Ensuring across-the-board implementation is very important to enable women workers to benefit from the Bill. The State will have to take a stand here and dedicatedly pursue an enforcement policy. The Government must make it mandatory for all state institutions, government departments as well as all autonomous and semi-autonomous industrial and commercial, and services-related bodies under the control of Federal and Provincial governments to set up institutional arrangements envisaged under the law. These should be put in place within a maximum of three months time. Organisations being run under the private sector must be engaged with for enforcement of this Bill.”
Mr Karamat Ali said that the implementation of the law requires a comprehensive campaign incorporating the media as well as other promotional elements to raise awareness about the various components of the Act. “The Government must take lead in setting in motion a strong media campaign to promote awareness about the law. This is a comprehensive bill that incorporates various steps for stakeholders to address the issue of harassment at workplace. They can also seek recourse from the state in case of dissatisfaction from organisation’s procedure related to the case. A thorough media campaign along with a proper strategy to engage with government and private sector organizations for awareness and implementation is important for the success of the Bill.”
The PILER Executive Director supported greater interaction between the government and the civil society for development of legislation on rights-based and other social issues. “The Sexual Harassment Bill was a product of extensive consultation between the civil society and the state representatives. There should be more such efforts to involve a broader representation of stakeholders in the process of legislation. As a civil society organization, the PILER will continue to extend support to pro-people legislation and law-enforcement exercise.”