11 January, 2011

Implementation of Anti-Sexual Harassment polices stressed

Published in Pakistan Observer (11 Jan. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: In the backdrop of Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (Section 509), a seminar-cum-book launch was held at local hotel in Islamabad on Monday to make the effective implementation of law possible at all levels.

The seminar titled ‘Leaders of Change – Implementation of Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation’ was jointly organized by International Labour Organization (ILO), OXFAM, Alliance against Sexual Harassment-AASHA and Mehergarh (an NGO).

Fouzia Saeed, Executive Director of AASHA; Samina Fazil, President Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Ms. Margaret Reade Rounds, ILO Country Representative; Wilson Lee of National Endowment for Democracy and Mehfooz Elahi of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and
Industry spoke on the occasion.

To promote opportunities for women and men to obtain descent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity, the two booklets were launched at the event which discusses the Anti- Anti-Sexual Harassment policies.

Focusing on the significance of healthy and productive workforce for a country, Ms. Rounds said “Any kind of harassment is a violation of the worker’s right whether male or female.” On behalf of ILO office for Pakistan, she expressed gratitude for the research done by AASHA under
the ILO project “Towards Gender Parity in Pakistan” and vowed to continue the goal.
Wilson Lee urged that only concerned individuals, civil societies, political parties and government officials can make the implementation of law possible across the country at all levels. While Mehfooz Elahi pledged to support the cause at all levels.

The first booklet titled ‘Leaders of Change’ (drawing lessons from case studies of organizations with anti-sexual harassment policies) by Sadaf Ahmad highlights the processes through which the work environment can be transformed into a more dignified, professional and productive space. It also draws attention to the mechanism that need to be put in place to address any violations of human dignity.
The second booklet titled ‘A Base line study on Anti Sexual Harrasment Policies in public and private sector’ (situation before 2010) by Fouzia Saeed and Maliha Husain documents the situation before the enactment of anti-sexual harassment legislation which has been
recently passed by the current democratic Government of Pakistan.

According to AASHA, in Pakistani society sexual harassment was not even identified as an issue and the acceptance for this behavior is still very high by both men and women due to the socialization of living in a patriarchal society. Although the act is a landmark achievement for women of Pakistan and has been applauded by the nation as a positive step, however, there are still challenges ahead to bring about a change on the ground and get the anti sexual harassment policy instituted.