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MeToo Movement and Legal Implications

Research ArticlesMeToo Movement and Legal Implications
By: Maira Nadeem

Abstract:

The #MeToo movement has arisen as a metamorphic force, globally and in Pakistan, in the fight against sexual harassment, toxicity, and abuse. This article examines the legal implications of the #MeToo movement in Pakistan, offering an extensive analysis of relevant laws, examining case laws, and presenting examples to clarify its profound impact on the country’s legal landscape.

In Pakistan, the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010, and the Pakistan Penal Code compose the central legal framework for addressing sexual harassment and immorality. The movement has consumed discussions and debates about these laws and their validity. #MeToo in Pakistan began to obtain momentum in 2018 when countless women publicly accused influential figures of sexual harassment, initiating legal proceedings that attracted global attention.

Influential case laws, including the Meesha Shafi vs. Ali Zafar case and the role of Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace, underline the urgent requirement for more forceful laws, improved implementation, and a strong legal process that supports victims and ensures justices.

The #MeToo movement has not only advocate awareness but also sparked cultural and traditional shifts, encouraging and support victims to share their issues and prompting organizations to take measures against harassment.

Pakistan must continue to develop its legal framework and societal attitudes to create a safer environment for all, building on the achievements and momentum of the #MeToo movement.

Keywords:

#MeToo movement, Legal Implications, Pakistan, Sexual Harassment, Case Laws, Workplace Harassment, Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, Pakistan Penal Code, Meesha Shafi, Ali Zafar, Gender Equality.

Introduction

The #MeToo movement, which emanate in the United States, has deeply impacted the global conversation surrounding sexual harassment and immorality.

In Pakistan, as in many other countries, the movement has trigger discussions and debates about sexual harassment, discrimination, and the legal framework to address such issues. The #MeToo movement is a social movement that originated in 2006 but gained widespread attention and recognition in 2017. It is a movement that object to raise awareness about sexual harassment, assault, and immorality, especially in the workplace and other areas where power imbalances can lead to toxicity and abuse.

The hashtag #MeToo, which encouraged victims of sexual harassment to share their own stories, feelings and experiences on social media, often by posting the phrase “Me too.” The main objective of #MeToo is to express their experiences and seek support from a society or community of People or individuals who have going through similar. 1

Role of #MeToo in Pakistan vs other Countries:

Pakistan has a patriarchal society, where debating such issues which is related to sexual harassment and assault has culturally and traditionally been considered taboo. The #MeToo movement has questioned these cultural and traditional norms and encouraged victims to share their stories, participating to a shift in public discourse. While, in other countries they have more progressive, positive and productive attitudes toward gender equality and social issues, the #MeToo movement has often construct existing advocacy and legal frameworks. In such countries, discussions about sexual harassment may not have been as suppressed as in Pakistan.

The legal framework in Pakistan to address sexual harassment was relatively growing when the #MeToo movement gained fame. The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010, was an important step, but its enforcement or implementation procedure was often criticized. While, in many countries had more developed legal frameworks to address sexual harassment making it easier for victims to seek legal support, remedies and for organizations to enforce anti-harassment policies.

1 #MeToo in the Corporate World: Power, Privilege, and the Path Forward by Sylvia Ann Hewlett

In more progressive states, #MeToo has often served to further empower and unite advocates for anti-harassment efforts.

Legal Framework in Pakistan

The legal framework in Pakistan for addressing issues related to sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement essentially revolves around the “Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010.” This law addresses workplace harassment and was established to protect women from harassment in both the public and private sectors. Following are the key elements of the legal framework in Pakistan focusing the #MeToo movement:

  1. Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 20102

This legislation addressing workplace harassment in Pakistan. Following are the key provisions:

Definition of Harassment: The Act defines many forms of harassment, including physical, verbal, non-verbal, and psychological harassment.

Internal Complaint Committee (ICCS): Company owner is required to establish the ICCS for dealing the matters and complaint’s regarding Harassment.

Complainant’s Identity: The Act emphasizes the significance of maintaining the

confidentiality of the complainant’s identity and details of the proceedings.

Penalties: The Act outlines penalties for individuals found guilty of harassment, which can include fines, imprisonment, or both.

  • Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace:

The law rooted the position of the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace. The ombudsperson is InCharge of overseeing the implementation of the Act, investigations, and ensuring that organizations comply with anti-harassment measures.

  • Regulations:

2 http://punjablaws.gov.pk/laws/2426a.html

Companies are required to conduct awareness programs for employees to guide them about their rights and the procedures for reporting harassment.

  • Civil & Criminal Laws

Civil Laws: Protection against Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2010 is the civil law addressing sexual harassment at the workplace. It provides a legal framework regarding workplace harassment. Defamation laws apply when individuals accused of harassment state that the allegations are false and have damaged their reputation. The accused and accuser can file defamation cases under civil law.

Criminal Laws: Following are the legislation which may be a part of proceeding regarding harassment crime:

  1. Pakistan Penal Code3

Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty): This section addresses when an individual uses criminal force against a woman with the intention of insult her modesty. It can be imposed when allegations involve physical assault.

Section 509 (Word, gesture, or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman): This section relevant in cases of verbal harassment.

  • Cybercrime Laws4

In cases involving online harassment, Pakistan’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, can be applied. The penalty of online harassment is a fine and imprisonment.

A world without #MeToo Movement?

A world without the #MeToo movement would be a world where many victims of sexual harassment, assault, and immorality would continue to suffer in silence, without a platform to share their fears and experiences, seek support, or demand accountability. In a world without #MeToo, countless victims would continue to feel isolated in this world, unable to speak out about their fears, stories and

3 https://www.ma-law.org.pk/pdflaw/PAKISTAN%20PENAL%20CODE.pdf

4 https://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1470910659_707.pdf

experiences or seek solidarity with others who have faced similar situations. Without #MeToo, legal reforms may not be existed.

Case Laws: The Meesha Shafi vs. Ali Zafar Case:5

The Meesha Shafi vs. Ali Zafar case is a well unknown example of how the #MeToo movement has modify the legal landscape and the broader debates surrounding sexual harassment in Pakistan. Here is a legal analysis of the case, the importance of the #MeToo movement in this case.

Background of the Case: In April 2018, the Pakistani singer and actress Meesha Shafi accused arrestive singer and actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment via a tweet. She publicly alleged that Ali Zafar had sexually harassed her on multiple time. After this accusation a legal battle began and became a central point in the #MeToo movement in Pakistan.

Role of #MeToo Movement in the Case: The #MeToo movement give Meesha Shafi a platform to come forward and share her story. This empowerment was important in a cultural context were speaking out against sexual harassment had traditionally been met stigma. Meesha Shafi’s allegations drew public attention, both nationally and internationally, and brought the matter of sexual harassment to the forefront of public discourse in Pakistan. The case highlighted that sexual harassment could happen in any field including entertainment, and that victims have the right to speak out. The movement created a support network for Meesha Shafi, with many individuals and institutes expressing support.

Legal analysis: The legal analysis of the Meesha Shafi vs. Ali Zafar case involves many key points. Like many sexual harassment cases, the case depends on the burden of proof. Meesha Shafi had to establish the accuracy of her allegations, and Ali Zafar, in response, had to defend himself. This required a careful examination of evidence, including witness affirmations and any certified documentation. Meesha Shafi’s allegations led to debate about the application of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, as she and Ali Zafar had worked together in the industry. The Act’s procedures for dealing workplace harassment cases became relevant in this context. The Meesha Shafi

5 upremecourt.gov.pk/downloads_judgements/c.p.1795_2022.pdf

vs. Ali Zafar case set a precedent for how many similar cases involving allegations of sexual harassment might be handled in Pakistan. The Meesha Shafi vs. Ali Zafar case is an example of the significance of the #MeToo movement in providing victims with a platform to share their experiences, raising awareness about sexual harassment.

Real-world Impact

The #MeToo movement has not only spread awareness regarding sexual harassment issues but has also led to cultural shifts in Pakistan. It has encouraged more individuals to come forward with their stories and demand justice. The movement has also influenced organizations to take proactive measures to address workplace harassment and create a safe environment.

Common Examples in Society

Workplace Harassment: Many individuals have faced sexual harassment in the workplace. This can include unwanted attitudes or comments by coworkers and seniors.

Academic Harassment: Sexual harassment mostly occurs in schools, colleges, and universities. This may involve teachers making inappropriate or immoral comments or acts toward students.

Online Harassment: Bullying, blackmailing and verbal abuse is now common in the world of online. These acts can have severe emotional and psychological consequences for victims.

Religious Institutions: Instances of sexual abuse have been reported within religious institutions particularly in cases of child abuse.

Street Harassment: Street harassment is a disturbing issue faced by many, particularly women, in urban areas.

Legal Reasoning

The #MeToo movement has exposed the insufficiency in Pakistan’s legal system when it comes to addressing sexual harassment. While the existing laws, such as the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, provide a framework for addressing workplace harassment, they have often been criticized

for being poorly imposed and enforced. There is a requirement for stronger laws and better implementation to protect victims and ensure that perpetrators are held to justice.

Harassment in Islamabad in 4 years Report6

SectorFemale ComplaintsMale ComplaintsTotal
Government12864031689
Private231510043319

Conclusion

The #MeToo movement in Pakistan has played a crucial role in bringing up issues of sexual harassment. The legal framework exists, it is essential to enhance it and ensure its effective implementation. The cases mentioned, such as Meesha Shafi vs. Ali Zafar illustrate the impact of the movement on the legal landscape.

Pakistan must continue to develop its legal framework and cultural attitudes to provide victims with the support they need and hold perpetrators justice.                                  

There is much work still to be done to ensure a safer and more equitable community for all.

6 https://www.dawn.com/news/1709300

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