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Harsher punishment for sexual harassment

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Pakistani women's rights activists won a victory when the National Assembly passed a bill calling for harsher punishment for sexual harassment of women.

The bill, which will next be considered by the senate, expands the vague definition of harassment in current law to facilitate prosecution, Dawn newspaper reported Thursday.

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The punishment under the new bill, which was approved unanimously by the assembly, will be three years in jail and a fine of up to 500,000 Pakistani rupees ($6,000). Under current law with the phrase "insult (to) the modesty of a woman," the maximum punishment is one year in prison and an unspecified fine.

This is the second pro-women's bill taken up by the government that came to power last year. A bill that has already been enacted into law provides financial and other help for victims of domestic violence including women, children, the elderly and servants.

"Harassment is one of the most common issues faced by the women of Pakistan," the latest bill said. "They face intimidation in the marketplace, in buses, at bus stops and at workplace."

It said such harassment inhibits women from stepping out of their homes for education, earning a livelihood or even getting medical treatment.

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"This amendment will not only make public and work environment safer for women but will open up the path for more women to pursue livelihood with dignity," the bill said.

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