KARACHI: In a giant step to curb sexual harassment, the Sindh government has appointed a provincial ombudsperson to redress women’s complaints against harassment as well as discrimination at the workplace – becoming the country’s first province to do so.
With the public disillusioned in the current political scenario, especially because of the regressive clash between the judiciary and the parliament, the positive move is expected to ease the plight of working women immensely.
Pir Ali Shah, a retired judge of the Sindh High Court, has been appointed the provincial ombudsperson under the anti-sexual harassment law. The official will act as a legal, impartial intermediary between the employees and their management. His duties will include investigation of filed complaints and resolving them, usually through recommendations or mediation.
Mehergarh, a human rights organisation, helped organise a meeting of Sindh Implementation Watch Committee recently, which was revived to take on the challenge.
Shah’s appointment is a massive step towards effective implementation of anti-sexual harassment legislation.
Now the complainants not satisfied with the decision of their inquiry committees, can take their case to the ombudsperson. If someone does not want to take their case to the committee within their organisation for whatever reason, they can also directly approach the law officer.
Sindh is the first province in the country to appoint an ombudsperson under this anti-sexual harassment law.
The Punjab government announced its ombudsperson’s office on March 8, but is yet to find a suitable candidate for the position.
Balochistan has given this position to their existing ombudsperson as additional charge. One of the investigation officers, Abdul Mannan Achakzai, has been designated to deal with sexual harassment cases in the province.
This arrangement needs to continue until a separate ombudsperson is appointed specifically for the anti-sexual abuse law. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not moved yet on the issue. Several meetings have been held with province’s social welfare and women development minister, Sitara Ayaz, among others without any concrete results, only verbal commitments.
The civil society has appreciated the efforts of Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Women Development Minister Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto and the Law Ministry of Sindh among all those who pushed the agenda behind the scenes.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2012.