Workplace Harassment Laws In Pakistan Take A Huge Leap Forward

Majority of people have a general concept regarding what workplace harassment entails. In layman terms, it is an act by a person at a workplace harassment which makes a colleague or employee feel offended, uncomfortable or intimidated. Harassment can be of varying sorts and degrees, but no matter the type of harassment, it is extremely common for the victims to remain silent and let the harassment go unreported.

Now with The Protection against Harassment of Women at workplace harassment Act, 2010 and The Protection against Harassment of Women at workplace harassment (Amendment) Act, 2022 in place, victims need not stay quiet and endure harassment any longer!

What Are The Harassment Laws in Pakistan?

Before 2010, there was no law or legal framework specifically catering to workplace harassment, nor was the term ‘harassment’ even sufficiently defined under any legislative texts. There were, however, some provisions which were added to the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (PPC) after much appeal from women’s rights groups and lawyers. The relevant provisions of the PPC are:

  • Section 354: Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, the punishment for which shall extend up to two years of imprisonment, or fine, or both.
  • Section 354A: Assault or use of criminal force to woman and stripping her of her clothes, exposing her to the public view.
  • Section 366-A: Procuration of a minor girl, below the age of eighteen, induced to get involved in illicit sexual intercourse, and this offence is punishable with up to 10 years of imprisonment along with a fine.
  • Section 375: Rape, in which sexual intercourse would amount to rape which include against her will, without her ‘free’ consent or consent based on misrepresentation, or when the girl is under sixteen years of age.
  • Section 509: Insulting modesty, by uttering any word, making any sound or gesture, or exhibiting any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intruding upon the privacy of such woman; or causing sexual harassment, by conducting sexual advances, demanding sexual favours, using written or verbal communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature which intends to annoy, insult, intimidate or threaten the other person, committing such acts at the premises of work place, or making submission to such conduct either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment

workplace harassment

What Are The Workplace Harassment Laws In Pakistan?

The  Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 was passed with the purpose of providing legal protection to women as well as decreasing the gender gap present in the professional environment owing to acts of harassment. After much effort from women’s rights organizations and the civil society, sexual harassment at workplace harassment was criminalized. The Act aimed at ensuring equal opportunity to both genders without the fear of being prejudiced against.

Though this Act was happily welcomed at the time, it received great critiques as many moral and logical fallacies of the Act started to appear, along with improper and inadequate definitions and methods of implementation of the provisions.

Some of the issues under the Act were:

  • Section 2(e) defined “Complainant” to mean a woman or man who has made a complaint to the Ombudsman or to the Inquiry Committee on being aggrieved by an act of harassment. This definition ignores the third gender, and also limits the possibility of filing the complaint to only the person facing the harassment.
  • Section 2(f) defined “Employee” as a regular or contractual employee whether employed on daily, weekly, or monthly or hourly basis, and includes an intern or an apprentice. This excluded all domestic workers, which constitute a larger workforce in Pakistan.
  • Section 2(h) defined “harassment” to mean 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. This definition was held to be extremely limiting and inadequate in the judgment, Nadia Naz vs. President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (2021) in which the court held the definition to cover only a small fraction of what harassment entails.
  • Section 2(n) defines “workplace harassment” as a place of work or the premises where an organization or employer operates and includes building, factory, open area or a larger geographical area where the activities of the organization or of employer are carried out and including any situation that is linked to official work or official activity outside the office. Once again this failed to cater to domestic workers, or even employees facing harassment during travelling for the course of their employment.

Workplace Harassment

What Amendments to the Workplace Harassment Laws Have Been Enacted?

As of January 2022, The Protection against Harassment of Women at workplace harassment (Amendment) Act has been passed by the Parliament, making the necessary changes required in the 2010 Act to bring it more in line with the requirements. The Amendment Act has been termed as ‘revolutionary’, expanding significantly the scope of the 2010 Act.

  • Under Section 2(e), “Complainant” now means ‘any person’, and the complaint can be filed by a former employee who has been dismissed or who resigned from the job, and the parent or guardian of a minor.
  • Under Section 2(f), “Employee now includes regular, contractual, piece-rate, gig, temporary, part-time, freelance employee, and further includes domestic workers and home-based workers.
  • Under Section 2(h), “Harassment” now includes any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, stalking or cyber stalking or verbal, visual or written communication or physical conduct of sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes including any gestures or expression conveying derogatory connotation, hostile or offensive work environment or punishing a person for refusing such advances.
  • Under Section 2(n), “workplace harassment” also now includes educational institutes, gigs, concerts, gyms, highways, studios, sports facilities, courts and performance facilities, along with the earlier places of work under the 2010 Act.

Pakistan has taken drastic steps in securing the workplace harassment for women through the introduction of the new 2022 Act. Now is the time for all persons facing harassment to raise their voices, and to convey this knowledge to those who are unaware of the recent developments and protections.

To make sure that the maximum number of people learn about their rights against harassment at workplace harassment, share this blog with all your friends, family members and colleagues.

About Author:-  Mr. Khawaja is an International Technology Lawyer based in Düsseldorf, Germany and managing partner of KLA Germany. He is known for providing robust solution with pragmatic approach on topics related to IT law, GDPR, Arbitration, IP, Startups, Investment and International Trade.

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