NA approves amendments to anti-harassment bill for wider scope

    The National Assembly has passed the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Bill, 2022, as amended by the Senate.

    Drafted by the Ministry of Human Rights, the bill aims to facilitate increased participation of women in the workforce and remove several lacunas from the present anti-harassment law by increasing its ambit to include professions and employment models that earlier legislation did not expressly mention.

    It provides protection from harassment to people engaged in all types of work, both formal and informal.

    To provide further clarity to the issue, the bill defines different kinds of harassment that may take place at the workplace.

    It amends several definitions provided in the Act, particularly those of ‘complainant’, ’employee’, ’employer’, ‘harassment’ and ‘workplace’, aiming to remove ambiguities that litigants have faced in the past and increase the scope of ‘workplace’ to include all forms and categories of work.

    The bill also establishes timelines for appeals against orders of the ombudsperson under the Act.


    The approval from the Lower House comes a month after the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights approved the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace (Amendment) Bill 2021, suggesting stricter punishments to the offenders, including more premises in the definition of a workplace and binding courts to decide such cases within 90 days.

    The committee members had reviewed the bill clause-by-clause and after getting input from woman activists and law experts agreed to include their recommendations in some of the clauses that had been moved by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari.

    Briefing the committee, the minister had said in the previous act the definitions of an employee, a workplace and harassment were narrow. In the proposed bill, she said, they had tried to expand the definitions in order to make the law more effective.

    PPP Senator Sherry Rehman had identified some loopholes in the amendments and asked for addressing them. She had conceded that the previous law was not finding a resolution to some matters due to the narrow definitions, hinting at the Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar case.

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