10 Nov 2009
On 4 November 2009, the Pakistani National Assembly passed a bill that will give higher punishments to those convicted of sexual harassment in part by expanding the definition of “harassment” in order to better prosecute offenders. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill would increase prison time for offenders from one to three years, and mandates that the offender pay up to Rs500,00.
The bill amends both the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Pakistani Penal Code, which currently do not specify a monetary amount for the fine and define sexual harassment as an “insult [to] the modesty of a woman.” The bill, which was passed unanimously and without debate in the National Assembly, must now be passed by the Senate to become law.
The draft of the bill was the work of Pakistani women’s rights activists and was introduced by Sherry Rehman. It is the second bill passed in three months to address providing monetary support for domestic violence and other forms of discrimination against women.
Another bill advocating for increased rights for women will soon come before the National Assembly; the forthcoming legislation will contain provisions to protect women from sexual harassment. “The proposed new section 509 with modified title of ‘insulting modesty or causing sexual harassment’, additionally defines the culprit as one who conducts sexual advances, or demands sexual favours or uses verbal or non-verbal communication 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 behaviour, or conducts such behaviour with the intention of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”
Compiled from: Raja Asghar, Women's UN Report Network, “Higher penalty for women’s harassment approved,” Dawn.com (5 November 2009).