A study of the statute books in Pakistan reveals, for the most part, that a set of laws that are comprehensive and attempt to address many key areas of concern in the country or not being implemented. We know this holds true of laws even as mundane as those that apply to traffic regulations – but the problem is especially acute when it comes to laws that are intended to protect the rights of women. A host of social attitudes and discriminations come into play, especially at levels involving the police and the local administrations.
Speakers at the fourth meeting of the Implementation Watch Committee of the National Commission on the Status of Women took up a number of these issues and suggested remedies. While the PPP government has, since coming to power in 2008, introduced several legislative bills — notably the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, a law campaigned for by ASHA, a network of organisations working against sexual harassment for many years — lack of implementation remains an issue.
Speakers highlighted the need for departments to enforce the law and it was pointed out that provinces needed to appoint ombudsmen to protect working women and the need to create awareness about the existence of the law and its provisions was also brought up.
We need more such seminars. Most important of all is the need to spread the message to working women — notably those employed at factories and similar set-ups. Men, too, need to be better informed about just what sexual harassment is, so that they can take a stand by exerting pressure on colleagues and acting to protect women subjected to harassment. The passage of a law is, after all, just a first step; much more needs to be done to follow up on it and turn it into something that works out in the real world.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2011.