‘Harassment bill to provide maximum protection to victims’

ISLAMABAD: Harassment at workplace is a sensitive issue and any legislation seeking to deal with it must incorporate the element of safety as well as ensure maximum assurance of justice to the victim, Federal Women’s Development Minister Sherry Rehman said on Friday.

“We have broadened the ambit of law, extending it to cover harassment against both women and men. Harassment is a common phenomenon at work, and men could be as much of a target as women are,” the minister told reporters after chairing a meeting to finalise the draft of the Protection from Harassment Act, 2008. Government officials and civil society members attended.

Sherry said she wanted the content of draft law cleared. “A woman finds her career as well as her reputation at stake when she takes offence to sexual harassment. We want the legislation to provide maximum security to the complainant to encourage her/him to pursue the case at an official level. The victim must have an expanded range of choices in terms of authorities dealing with the complaint. We have therefore included an inquiry commission as well as an ombudsperson to ensure that there is an internal as well as an external set-up to address the grievance.”

The minister said the meeting also discussed details of the draft bill. “There was extensive consultation on the language and the broader text of the draft act. This is the first proposed legislation against sexual harassment, and we felt it was important to present the law in a manner that it reinforces the constitutional provisions of right to security and dignity to every citizen. Our constitution is very clear on all matters pertaining to human rights, including the right to work, and gender discrimination. Laws guided by constitutional principles can not only guarantee protection of rights, but also ensure the supremacy of the constitution.”

APP

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