LAHORE  - The Punjab government is about to bring reforms to Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2013. The act would be amended to fight off woman harassment including girl students from the menace. The government woke up to reforms after the media reported harassment to female students in educational institutes. The amended draft will be tabled in the Punjab Assembly soon, an official said.

Sources in Women Development Department said that the purpose of the legislation was to increase horizon of the women. Though the existing law provided protection to the women working at workplaces like offices and factories, there was no provision about those who did not work but were being victimized by others. The official said that the amendment would include women who did not work like the university or college students. The female students had been repeatedly harassed at educational institutions but the current legislation could not apply on them as they were not working women.

The women rights organizations, who had earlier lauded the legislation of 2013 and called it a historic step in order to safeguard and protect the rights of women and gave credit to the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, have called upon the government to further amend the law and increase horizon for the women being harassed.

Cases of sexual harassment at workplace were fallen under the mandate of the Punjab Female Ombudsperson and the office enforced the law to curb such exploitation. Provincial liaison offices have also been set up at Sargodha, Rawalpindi and Multan besides central office in Lahore to provide protection to women workers.

It was pointed out in many seminars that the need was to amend the existing law to the effect of those women who were not working at offices etc.  The sources added that the legislation for eradication of domestic violence, formulation of provincial commission for women, effective implementation and monitoring of the approved laws, eradication of underage marriages, and formulation bodies for home-based working women were on the cards. A sexual harassment scandal rocked many educational institutions including the Quaid-i-Azam University when the complainant, an MBA students, had made a complaint to the vice chancellor and alleged that an assistant professor at the School of Management Sciences had tried to molest her when she visited his office for rectifying a mistake in her marks sheet. The university syndicate had to remove a senior faculty member after holding an inquiry.

On International Women’s Day in 2012, the Punjab government had announced a comprehensive package of measures “Punjab Women Empowerment Package 2012”. Its purpose was to enhance their socio-economic status by expanding opportunities available to them and protect them from sexual harassment and ensure inheritance rights.