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CareersIn 2010, ‘The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act’ was passed by the Senate, enabling an employee to lodge a formal complaint against a harasser and an organisation under Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Despite this, sexual harassment in the workplace is, unfortunately, a common occurrence – one that is often avoided and left unaddressed. Most people are unaware of what constitutes ‘sexual harassment’. It is important to know that while physical violation is the highest degree of offence, verbal and written provocation (via digital media/online) is also included.

The first step to dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace is to identify it; harassment includes behaviour such as:

  • Asking for favours of a sexual nature in return for a promotion or increment.
  • Provocative remarks and comments with regard to a person’s appearance.
  • Inappropriate physical contact.
  • Sharing explicit content via text messages or e-mail.
  • Posting inappropriate remarks/comments on a social media platform.
  • Watching or staring at someone in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

If you feel that you are being harassed, here are some guidelines you should follow:

  • Maintain concrete records. Gather all evidence of harassment incidents against you. Keep a journal and include proof of text messages, e-mails, social media posts and if possible, audio/video recordings and witness statements.
  • Take a colleague into confidence and share the details of the incident (this will help you find out if others have been subjected to similar harassment). It is also essential to inform your immediate line manager or supervisor about the incident(s); if your line manager is harassing you, talk to his/her supervisor.
  • Consult the HR department about company policy regarding sexual harassment and discrimination and lodge a formal complaint with reference to a violation of the company’s policy. If there is no response, then consider taking legal action.

Remember, every employee has the right to work in a safe and productive environment and sexual harassment needs to be dealt with immediately.

– Zeeshan Lakhpaty
The writer is a professional corporate trainer. zeeshan@peopleexcellence.biz

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on Sunday, September 15, 2013.