Working Women Harassment Bill versus Khawaja Asif

Guest blog by: Humza Ikram

A key leader of PML-N, Khawaja Muhammad Asif humiliated a fellow MNA in the house. Here we are trying to protect woman in the workplace by introducing Woman Harasment bill a woman was humilated who was a part of the group who introduced criminal law (amendement bill) .

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act bill is approved in the National assembly; its a part of effort to protect working woman rights and other important bill in this regard called Working Women Harassment Bill is also expected to be presented in the parliment in next session after it was approved in Sindh Assembly. Former Minister Sherry Rehman produced this bill in the parliament last year.

NA passes bill on harassment against women

ISLAMABAD, Nov 4 (APP): National Assembly Wednesday unanimously passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2009 to amend Pakistan Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure and provide protection to women against harassment at workplace.

Minister for Law and Justice, Muhammad Afzal Sindhu moved the bill to the House as passed by the Standing Committee, and all of its three clauses were passed unanimously with opposition neither opposing it nor proposing any further amendments.

The bill provides protection to working women at workplace from sexual advances and intimidation and violators will be punished with three years imprisonment or Rs. 500,000 fine or both.

The Bill states, ‘whoever makes sexual advances, or demands sexual favors or uses written or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which intends to annoy, insult, intimidate or threaten the other person or commits such acts at the premises of workplace, or makes submission to such conduct either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or makes submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual, a basis for employment decision affecting such individual, or retaliates because of rejection of such behavior, or conducts such behavior with the intention of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or fine up to Rs 500,000 or with both.’

In the next clause the bill elaborate the dispensation mechanism for the bill where the word ‘sexual harassment’ has been included to already existing entries of ‘uttering word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of women etc.

The same clause clarified the fine amount to Rs 500,000 also elaborating that the accused will not be arrested without warrant, warrants will be bailable and the case will be presented to the court of Magistrate of First Class.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons reveals that the amendment will not only make the public and work environment safer for men and women but will open up the path for more women in particular to pursue their livelihood with dignity. It will reduce poverty as more and more women will get the courage to enter the job market.
This amendment will also open up opportunity for private and the government sector to get competent human resource that will result in better production and improved quality of service. The social benefits, as a result of providing protection against harassment will become a major contribution to the development of the country.

A win for women (The News)
Friday, November 06, 2009

It is easy to say that we have a situation in which there is virtually no governance at all. This is true in most spheres, but there are exceptions. One of these is in the passage of legislation aimed at protecting the rights of women and other vulnerable groups, including children. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, passed unanimously by the National Assembly, amends existing legislation to impose a jail sentence up to three years and a fine of up to 500,000 for sexual harassment. Previously, the crime was rather loosely defined and provided for a sentence of up to a year. The law is the second within three months which seeks to improve the situation for women victims of violence. In August a bill on domestic abuse was adopted by both houses of parliament. Another bill, seeking penalties for harassment in the work place, is also likely to be tabled within weeks.

The credit for all this goes to women activists, both within and outside parliament, who have worked tirelessly for a cause they believe in. According to the figures from international human rights groups, up to 80 per cent of women in the country face violence in one form or the other, and this goes to show how significant this legislation is. The passage of the laws highlights advantages of having a larger number of women in parliament. It is true that only a handful among them are directly elected and that a significant number are the relatives of key male politicians. But despite this their presence has resulted in issues that have an impact on the lives of women being discussed far more frequently, thus giving a louder voice to 50 per cent of citizens who so often go unheard.

Second apology follows conduct unbecoming
By Syed Irfan Raza
Saturday, 07 Nov, 2009
Source: Dawn

ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: PML-N stalwart Khwaja Asif apologised to PML MNA Farkhanda Warraich a second time on Friday for bringing her to tears the previous day and won laurels for his “high morals”.

But the grapevine said “grave reasons” lay behind his “gracious” act.

Unknown to those praising his humility, rumours said Khwaja Asif had been “humbled” overnight to tender “a proper apology on the floor of the house”. The “force” behind the demand was scary enough for him to promise to do that.

In fact he had a nightmare which scared him so much that he opted to go for another apology and even did not dare to share with anyone what happened to him last night.

Some of his neighbours and employees of the Parliament Lodges said up to 15 armed guards believed to be that of the MNA broke the entry of Suite J-401 allotted to Mr Asif and asked why he had passed derogatory remarks about the MNA.

They stayed in his room for half an hour meanwhile somebody had called the police which reached there at 10pm and mediated.

An official, who was also present on this occasion, said Mr Asif told the intruders that he apologised for whatever he had said to the MNA. The source quoted Mr Asif as saying: “She is just like my sister and whatever I have said is because of some misunderstanding.”

Some of the MNAs, who were close to Mr Asif when he passed remarks against the woman, told Dawn that she along with some other colleagues was talking to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani when the PML-N leader asked National Assembly Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi that why they were mingling around him (the prime minister). On this the deputy speaker replied that may be they were from your own party (PML-N).

With these remarks of the deputy speaker all others went away except the lady MNA and then Mr Asif said: “She is not from our party, I don’t know who she is, may be a stranger in the house,” an MNA said while quoting Mr Asif.

The remarks of the PML-N leader gained attention of many, including Prime Minister Gilani and deputy speaker, and brought the lady MNA to tears. Although Mr Asif apologised shortly after the incident, with rude tone, the MNA said.

When contacted, Khwaja Asif confirmed that he had met a dreadful incident last night but he did not want to comment on the issue. “I don’t want to say anything about it,” he said.

Asked why he had not lodged any protest at any forum on what he had experienced in his suite, the frontline leader of the N-league who is known for his aggressive way of talking said: “Such ups and downs are the part of politics and I don’t want to make an issue out of it.”

The incident has also raised concerned among many other members in the parliament about how vulnerable they were at the hands of private armed guards of few other members while living in the apparently secure Parliament Lodges.