Parliamentarians and government ministries must create an enabling environment and effective legal system to protect women, especially the working women. This was the view of experts at a seminar to commemorate the International Women’s Day, organised by the Working Group for Women (WGW) at Aga Khan University (AKU).
Speaking about the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace bill, passed unanimously by the National Assembly in January 2010, President of the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid Zia Ahmed Awan emphasised that Pakistan is obligated to implement the international conventions, it has signed and ratified, in letter and spirit. He was referring to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other conventions of the International Labor Organisation (ILOs).
Chief Executive Raasta Development Simi Kamal also spoke about the condition of women in the country. “In Pakistan, harassment of women at work is not considered an issue worth discussing because the dominant male opinion is that the rightful place of women is her home, not the workplace.
It has taken many years of struggle by women’s organisations to bring this issue to the notice of lawmakers.” Kamal discussed the steps needed to implement the bill in accordance with the CEDAW requirements, where public and private organisations would need to develop an internal code of conduct, a policy on sexual harassment at the workplace and develop complaints and appeals mechanism that would help establish a safe working environment for women.
A government-appointed ombudsman would also have to be available to document cases and arbitrate as needed. The effectiveness of the bill remains to be seen.
Senior Alumni Officer, AKU, Madiha Zubair spoke about research on the impact of sexual harassment, pointing out that victims reported decreased job satisfaction, lack of organisational commitment, increased levels of stress, tension, anger, anxiety, depression and guilt. In some cases of extreme stress, women needed medical or psychiatric help.
Nasreen Sulaiman Lalani, lecturer at Aga Khan University School of Nursing, said that the situation is worse for women who work in community services field, especially when they are seen
promoting women’s empowerment. Sharing experiences from research conducted in urban and rural squatter areas in Orangi Town, Sultanabad, Aarab Solangi, Jiskani Village and Dharo Mahesar, Lalani said that female workers were regularly threatened by political groups.
Source: The News