With the increasing number of high-profile sexual harassment allegations all over the world, the
media and the leaders are turning towards a simple solution that is to make anti-sexual harassment training mandatory in the workplaces.
The Government of Pakistan passed two laws to curtail sexual harassment in 2010 - the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, with amendments in Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code relating to sexual harassment at the workplace and the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act.
The laws entail that the management of the Universities/ organizations are responsible to provide formal awareness to all employees about the existing Acts, the Committee and the procedure of reporting cases, formulate a three-members “Standing Inquiry Committee” with at least one female member, and display the “Code of Conduct” in the organisation.
The Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan has also promulgated a policy in this regard and has ensured strict and mandatory implementation of the policy across the board in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Pakistan. This ‘Policy on Protection Against Sexual Harassment at Higher Education Institutes’ has been recently revised in July 2020. HEC is spearheading the awareness campaign and delivering training to all HEIs' students, faculty and staff through its National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE). One such session was conducted online on Sep 09, 2021 in collaboration with UNDP’s Ms Yusra Khalid.
Since there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment at NUMS, the Provost QA and RD, Prof S.M. Raza through the Registrar had nominated five members from NUMS to attend the course.
The session was interactive and Dr Erum Monis, AD QA/Member Inquiry Committee on Gender Harassment, Dr Muhammad Naeem, Assistant Professor NDBS, Dr Amjad Sohail, Dr Shazia Khalid and Ms Taskeen Manzoor, faculty NDSBS, NUMS participated fully in the discussion.
During the course, it was highlighted that in order to comply to Pakistani Law & HEC requirements, universities have to adopt the policy, establish a formal Harassment Complaint Cell, nominate an Inquiry Committee and designate two officers as Focal Persons to spread awareness & deliver trainings to its employees, faculty and students, redress grievances regarding workplace gender harassment and implementation of Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation after approval from the competent authority.
Final hearing authority is the Ombudsperson (Federal/Provincial) or the case can be registered under Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code as well.
It was emphasized that to accomplish United Nations SDGs, women empowerment and hence human rights for all genders should be propagated. Recommendations were made to assist HEIs in implementing the policies in true letter and spirt by supporting the HEIs and strengthening the Anti Gender Harassment Cells created in the universities and organizations.