Know Your Rights: Workplace Harassment Types & Laws in Pakistan

A research study comprising of 200 respondents from 10 public and 10 private organizations indicated that 96 percent of the females or their colleagues faced some form of sexual harassment at workplace.

AASHA (Alliance Against Sexual Harassment) conducted a study on sexual harassment and found that 80 percent of the female employees working in the formal and informal sectors in Pakistan are sexually harassed. The results were high for the formal sector, both private and public organizations, where around 93 percent of the women participants reported of sexual harassment at their workplaces.

Another study revealed that most of the women are aware of their rights, yet unaware of the Protection against Harassment of women at the Workplace Act, 2010.

In our patriarchal society where most of the sexual harassment cases remain unreported owing to the societal pressure, research states the unreported number to be more than 75 percent.

The prevalence of workplace harassment has a lot to do with the lack of awareness and knowledge in women regarding their rights at the workplace and the Act that exists in order to ensure their security.

Defining harassment at work

 The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 defines harassment as

 Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply with such a request or is made a condition of employment.

This definition comprehensively defines harassment in its entirety and specifies the various forms of it that can occur in the context of the workplace. From forceful sexual advances both verbal and physical, and soliciting sexual favors to exploiting the victim for not consenting to such demands, the definition given by the act brings to light all aspects of harassment that can possibly occur in a workplace.

Unfortunately, in a male chauvinist society like ours, where women have yielded to the culture of silence and have chosen to be acquiescent on issues of violence and harassment, it is next to impossible to invoke a voice against such offenses. Women have been forced into submission for so long that even the ones who acknowledge sexual harassment as an offence and dare to speak out against it are silenced, mostly by the same gender who not only manage to manipulate the victim into believing that being sexually harassed is somehow their own fault but convince them that it would sabotage their own dignity if they report it or confront the harasser. In worst instances, it goes as far as leading to character assassination of the woman who chooses to voice the harassment that she’s been through.

With each voice that is suppressed, another perpetrator gets to get away with his crimes. HARASSMENT is a crime.

Sexual Harassment at a workplace is a manifestation of gender discrimination and indicates unequal power distribution between the harasser and the harassed. Mostly the people who engage in sexual harassment are those who have authority and belong to high social standing. Thus, the victim feels vulnerable to the repercussions that might follow in case she reports the abuse. Also, humiliation is one of the biggest fears that victim faces regarding harassment and abuse due to the conventional condescending response of the society towards women who address such issues.

It affects the overall psychological health of the victim as well as impedes the productivity of an organization. Victims are reported to suffer from anxiety, fear of humiliation, helplessness, and vulnerability. Most of them socially withdraw themselves. Besides, no organization can thrive in such environment.

Types of harassment

Michigan University, office of institutional equity, identifies two types of harassment, “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment”.

Quid pro quo (meaning “this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that an employment decision about an employee depends upon whether the employee submits to conduct of sexual nature. So, for example, if an employee is made to believe that a promotion is likely if the employee goes on a date with the employee’s supervisor, the employee is possibly being subjected to “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.

workplace harassment

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive working or learning environment or is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from an activity.

Unwanted sexual statements

Sexual or “dirty” jokes, comments on physical attributes, spreading rumors about others and displaying or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures and/or written material. Unwanted sexual statements can be made in person, in writing, electronically (email, instant messaging, blogs, web pages, etc.) and otherwise.

Unwanted personal attention

Letters, telephone calls, visits, pressure for sexual favors, pressure for unnecessary personal interaction and pressure for dates where a sexual/romantic intent appears evident but remains unwanted.

Unwanted physical or sexual advances

Touching, hugging, fondling, touching oneself sexually for others to view, sexual assault, intercourse or other sexual activity.

For an effective national integration, the government of Pakistan is striving to provide a safe working environment to women in the labor force through formulating The protection Against Harassment Of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 (later amended in 2016), exclusive to protect women against harassment at the workplace.

This act attempts to define harassment and penalizes anyone who engages in it in order to protect the women against violence of any sort in the context of a workplace.

Based on this act, if an employee registers a complaint, an inquiry committee, consisting of at least one female member, must investigate the issue and submit the findings within 30 days of initiation of inquiry. If the accused is found guilty, inquiry committee can recommend the Competent Authority to impose penalties such as withholding the promotion/increment of the perpetrator for a specific period of time, censure, compensation paid to the victim from the pay of the accused, removal or dismissal from the service, or even compulsory retirement.

The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women is doing some great work in protecting women rights and more such laws can be studies over their website.

22 Comments

  1. No idea where this study was conducted.if you want to know actual situation you should conduct interview of a grade 18 female officer of Agriculture Department. She is a victim of sexual harassment.and whole bureaucracy is protecting culprit. Including the most senior officer of the province. You will know very surprising facts that when a female raises her voice then how she is threatened. Her name is umber and she is Assistant Agricultural Chemist at Pesticide Residue Lab kala shah kaku.

    1. You are absolutely right. I know exactly how the whole bureaucracy and even the offices that were supposed to help are actually protecting the culprit. They accept all lies and baseless blamed and allegations of the culprit that he does in response to the complaint of the victim. They make reports based on falsehood and decide in favour of the accused.I went through it.

    1. Universities are the pathetic place now. Nobody is doing anything. Separate shifts for boys and girls. Morning for female students and evening for male students .

      1. Main yehi soch raha that k sab boys ko blame kar rahy hain but girl ko koi kuch nahi keh raha.
        Akhir girls always innocent q…

        1. Jab aik 16 se 20 saal k bacha ko aik adhi umr ki orat use krti he us k bad gandi aadat prne k bad bacha office level pe ja k bht kch kre ga me kisi ko blame nai kr raha lkn ye b aik haqiqat he senior men nd women r responsible to train juniors they use teen agers

  2. How about those women’s who uses their women card on this by making false accusations against the male colleagues to intimidate them for their own intimate gains ! Women speaks matter !! So do we have such laws to prevent men harassment at work 🧐

    1. I am a lawyer and as a lawyer I will say that this is true what u said every man is not same and every women is not same many male also suffers a harassment through women’s and u people also have a laws u should use them

  3. A v.common issue in our society ! The sad fact is that women who are v.reserved and strict in their behavior at their work places also fall a victim to it by these frustrated men ! 😡

  4. I dont know why these INGOs and NGOs always focus only Pakistan for this kind of research? Why dont these organizations conduct and publish outcome of the results of same kind researchs in other countries who are so called known for the protectors and champions of human and women’s right! Believe me in Pakistani society, still a woman has more respect and honour than other

    1. Before adding laws & punishments i must write that we need to change our mentality(narrow mind)..if not we cant get rid of such problems

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