Cyber Crime Against Women Act is underway to overcome harassment

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Lahore: Statistics illustrate that harassment against women is rising in Pakistan due to technological boom serving as another source of pestering.

Many countries have established Cyber Crimes Act according to which, any act of harassment is considered a serious offense with hard punishments. Unfortunately, situation in Pakistan is disappointingly different. According to human rights activists, successive governments in Pakistan never considered it as an imperative to be addressed. Currently, there are no cyber laws in the country to help resolve the cases being reported frequently.

The figures collected by Aurat Foundation validate that last year more than 150 cases of harassment were reported in different media networks and to non-governmental organizations. The act of persecution in the most of these cases directly involved the laws related to cyber technology.

Salman Abid, the Regional Head of Strengthen Participatory Organization (SPO) while talking to News Lens Pakistan said, “Although cyber-stalking was a criminal offense under clause 13 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance (PECO) 2009 with the punishment of seven years imprisonment, the clarity through some new legislation was needed to stop sexual harassment against women.”

PECO gives many powers to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to curb cyber stalking, spoofing or spamming. Moreover, under the current PECO, pornography is also a serious offense with ten years of imprisonment but the effectiveness of PECO is still not up to the mark and there is a lot of space to be covered to give protection to women, Dr. Usman Anwar, Director FIA told News Lens Pakistan.

He added, “There are some cases in our knowledge in which women got harassed but they were not very supportive when we tried to approach them. Lack of awareness regarding cyber crime and the absence of clear laws on cyber crime against women were among the major problems in tackling such criminal offenses.”

Punjab Minister of Women Development Hamida Wahiduddin told News Lens Pakistan that the Punjab government is keen to introduce relevant legislation as the government had enforced various laws in the recent years to prevent every kind of harassment against women.

A Provincial Commission on the Status of Women is preparing a draft of Cyber Crime Against Women Act. “As the communication industry has grown up, the cyber harassment against women has also increased with the passage of time. We often watch videos and see pictures carrying sexual harassment against women. This must be curbed through strict punishment and we are working to establish such laws in our draft,” Fuazia Viqar told News Lens Pakistan.

Cyber-stalking is a criminal offense under Anti-Stalking, Slander or Harassment laws in many countries. The work was being done to differentiate Cyber Crime Harassment Act from other activities falling under the category of Cyber-stalking, Fuazia Viqar said. “Cyber-stalking is a broad term which includes false accusations, defamation, slander, libel, identity theft, solicitation for sex and collecting data to harass or threat. In this law, our prime focus is on solicitation for sex, gathering information to harass and the means used by harassers against women,” she further added.

At present, FIA is the main agency that handles cyber crimes. Uzma Bukhari, member Punjab Assembly told News Lens Pakistan that FIA would also handle women harassment cases if this act becomes a law. “Moreover, we are considering giving more powers to the agency so that these acts could be curbed strongly. A campaign will also be launched to aware women about this bill and their rights,” she further stated.

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