By: KASHIF ABBASI
ISLAMABAD: Participants of a seminar on the ‘Implementation of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010’, were told it has been five years since the act had been passed, but two provinces are yet to appoint ombudsmen to receive and decide on complaints against harassment cases.
Speakers at the seminar on Monday, organised by the Pakistan Manpower Institute, said that the act stipulated that all four provinces had to appoint ombudsmen, but so far only Punjab and Sindh had done so while the women of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan were being deprived of their legal right to be able to register cases at an ombudsperson’s office.
Executive Director of Mehergarh Maliha Husain said the governments of both provinces have recently undertaken positive measures and have assured rights activists that they will appoint the ombudspersons in accordance with the act.
“The KP committees are very active and we hope both provinces will appoint Mohtasibs soon,” she said.
In the absence of legally required ombudsmen, departmental committees are hearing harassment cases
Ms Husain told the seminar that harassment cases are common at workplaces and that “in the majority of cases, women keep silent because they are not aware of their rights”.
She said that there are also cases of men being harassed by women and stressed that all such cases should be registered with the police under Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
A participant at the event, who is working towards the implementation of the act, said cases in both KP and Balochistan are decided by active departmental committees.
“The women of these two provinces are also deprived of their right to challenge the decisions of departmental committees before an ombudsman,” she said.
Explaining the challenges women face while reporting harassment cases to departmental committees, the participant, who wished not to be named, said: “If a woman wants to complain against her supervisor, how will she approach the committee which might be working under the person she is complaining about?”
Retired Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan said the administrators or executives at private and government organisations have a huge part in maintaining a conducive environment in their workplaces.
“Administrators should make sure to maintain such an environment where no one can even think about harassment,” he said, adding that if the highups of an organisation were vigilant, there will be less such incidents.
Director General of Pakistan Manpower Institute Khalida Gulnar said the purpose of the seminar was to sensitise participants and the public on the issue.