After a delay of more than a year, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is finally implementing its anti-harassment law.
Anti-harassment committees will be set up for the private and public sectors. They will comprise three members: a chairman, male member and female member. The committee will have the rights of a magistrate.
When a complaint comes in, it will investigate the accused.
“Legal action will be taken if the perpetrator is found guilty,” said Syed Masood, the chairperson of the information department’s anti-harassment committee. “This could mean dismissal, termination and fines,” he said.
KP’s women are appreciating the implementation of the law. They called the move equivalent to women getting a voice. “Previously women did not have a say,” said Radio KP jockey Kulsoom Zainab.
“But when you know there’s someone backing you, you get a voice,” she said.
A female member on the committee is very important, said Ayesha Taskin, an officer at the information department. “So if any woman has a complaint, she will be able to confidently lodge it,” she added.
In case a person is against the decision taken by the committee, an appeal can be made to the provincial ombudsman.
KP has recorded 900 harassment complaints in the last 10 months
The number of complaints against harassment from KP increased tremendously this year. At least 900 women filed complaints against blackmailing and harassment on social media, according to the Federal Investigation Agency’s cybercrime unit.
Of these, 40% were from Peshawar.
Apart from social media, 56 women reported cases of harassment at the workplace to the provincial ombudsman. Out of these, only five were solved.
Eleven female teachers and students at universities, five lady health workers and students, and seven female lawyers also filed complaints. Six women who were harassed by someone from their families also went to the ombudsman.
“The highest number of complaints comes from the education sector and then the health sector,” said Anti-harassment Ombudsman Rakhshanda Naz. “This is because more women are employed in these sectors.”
Many women were reluctant in coming forward because of societal pressures. “Women were reluctant initially because they were scared of their personal information getting leaked,” she said.
The FIA has broadened its spectrum. Complaints made from WhatsApp and other social media platforms are now instantly sent to the cybercrime cell.