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The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Monday finalized its deliberation and passed the bill titled; “The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (amendment) bill, 2021” introduced by Dr Shireen Mazari, Minister for Human Rights. The Honourable Chairman Committee, Senators, Women activists and Law experts gave their insight on the proposed bill and certain amendments were also considered and welcomed by the Chair.

The Committee also observed one-minute silence and passed a resolution unanimously moved by the Chairman Committee to honour the deceased Sri Lankan citizen who became a victim of mob lynching last week in Sialkot.

The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights met under the Chairmanship of Senator Walid Iqbal here at Parliament House on Monday. The Committee reviewed “ The Protection against Harassment of Women at the workplace (amendment) bill, 2021” clause-by-clause.

While giving her intuition on the proposed amendment bill, Dr Shireen Mazari said that in the previous act the definitions of Employee, Workplace, and Harassment were narrow. In the proposed amendments we tried to expand the definitions, she added. Senator Sherry Rehman identified loopholes in the amendments and asked for addressing the lacunas. She conceded that the previous law was not finding the resolution to some matters due to narrow definitions. She wanted the law to be more inclusive with broad definitions. Sherry Rehman and law experts were of the view that a section of the bill related to Punishment for filing malafide or false complaints should be omitted while Senator Prof Mehr Taj Roghani opposed the omission of the said section.

The Law experts welcomed the amendments proposed by the ministry but observed that further addition was needed in the definitions. The law experts submitted in written their proposed amendments to the ministry.

After deliberation and reviewing the proposed amendment bill clause-by-clause the Senate Standing committee on Human Rights passed the amendment bill to protect women from harassment at the workplace.

Some of the proposed Amendments are:

i)The protection of women working in sports and online was made part of the bill

ii)The scope of the law also includes universities and art studios.

iii)Harassment of women working in houses was also included in the bill

iv)A government employee involved in harassment can be punished with dismissal and suspension of promotion.

V)Those involved in professional fields will have their licenses revoked as punishment.

vi)Gender-based discrimination would also be a punishable offence.

vii)Harassment petitions will be decided in 90 days.

According to its Statement of Objects and Reasons, the bill “aims to facilitate increased participation of women in the workforce by removing the lacuna present in the existing law. It broadens the ambit and scope of the law to include certain professions and employment models that the current law does not expressly mention.”

The statement adds, “Through these amendments, protection from harassment shall be provided to people engaged in all types of work – formal and informal. The amendment bill will also provide clarity with respect to different kinds of harassment that take place at the workplace. The purpose of this amendment is to fulfil Pakistan’s constitutional obligations to its citizens and guarantee them their dignity and prevention of discrimination on the basis of sex in their professions and achieve the goal of increased women participation of women in the workplace. The bill seeks to achieve the aforesaid objectives.”

At the outset of the meeting, on the proposal of the Chairman Committee the Senate’s body observed a minute silence and passed a resolution moved by the Chairman Committee to honour the deceased Sri Lankan citizen who became a victim of mob lynching last week in Sialkot. The resolution was passed unanimously. The Committee Resolved that this Committee

“(a) expresses its profound grief and sorrow over the sad demise of Sri Lankan citizen Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana in Sialkot on 3rd December 2021 and extends its sincere condolences and regrets to the family of the deceased, as well as to the Government and people of Sri Lanka; (b) condemns the vigilantism and the brutality involved on part of the violent mob that perpetrated this gruesome crime; and (c) calls upon all institutions of the State to ensure that these perpetrators are punished with the full might of the law, and also to conduct some soul searching followed by taking of concrete steps towards preventing the society’s descent into intolerant radicalization”.

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