Report recommends focusing on implementation of anti-sexual laws

ISLAMABAD                -           A report reviewing the implementation and utility of the anti-sexual harassment law over the last 10 years shows the achievements public sector, private sector and civil society have made so far in setting up the accountability mechanism and dealing with the issue.
Released by Mehergarh Institute, the report reveals several remarkable breakthrough facts. According to the report, banking sector has come out to be the best in implementing the law with State Bank of Pakistan fully committed to monitor the mechanism, while the health sector is struggling to get the system in place.
The report shows that the law has been complied with by over 10,000 companies and institutions. About 23,000 professionals have been trained by Mehergarh alone as resource persons, inquiry committee members and other trainers, to spread the awareness and accountability for the issue.
Although there is no specific figure for the total number of sexual harassment cases reported because of the confidentiality maintained, Mehergarh alone has helped more than 4,000 cases in the last 10 years. Ombudspersons appointed under this law have helped around 2000 cases so far, said the report.
Mehergarh was the secretariat of AASHA movement which drafted and helped the Parliament to pass the harassment law. It also leads the implementation process throughout the country.
Mehergarh facilitated this process and engaged stakeholders in each province through formal review exercise to find out achievements, challenges and recommendations. The purpose of the review was to assess the implementation of the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 and to formulate the way forward.
According to the Report, among the private sector, Engro with all of its affiliated companies is doing an outstanding job of complying with the law. In Education sector, LUMS has revised its policy, which is now considered to be the best in the education institutions.
Their inquiry system and the commitment with which they handle cases is outstanding. FC College is closely following LUMS in its success for prevention and setting up of accountability systems.
NADRA was considered to be the most responsive and responsible among the government institutions to address the issue, while Motorway Police continues to be ahead of the game among the law enforcing departments, said the report.
Out of the banks, Habib Metropolitan Bank has outdone other banks in their commitment to transform their work environment, while FINCA micro Finance is the first bank that has taken the grievance system to its branch level.
Out of the five ombudspersons appointed under this law, the one in Sindh has performed consistently well. Among civil society, the RSPN (Rural Support Program Network) has achieved visible transformation and has complied with the law with full commitment.
In the review process, consultations were held to assess different individuals and organisations contributions; their achievements and the challenges they faced in the process. Participants from different sectors participated including the government, private sector, civil society, educational institutes, unions, media, banks and law enforcing agencies.
As far achievements are concerned, the report said there is a visible shift among people over the last 10 years to speak up and report the issue of sexual harassment. This includes reporting cases by individuals and discussions on media.
The achievements include formulation and passage of the rules for the law within its first year, formation of high-powered National Implementation Watch Committee and later Provincial Watch Committees besides setting up of five ombudspersons under the law, registration and resolution of thousands of cases.
The report said some organisations or government departments do not take the compliance process seriously. A few side with the accused regardless of the factual situation or the circumstances, it added.
The report recommended focusing on implementation, collectively by all stakeholders, instead of continuing to proposed amendments and getting quality training and refreshers for all employees/students, especially the inquiry committee members.
It also asked the parliamentarians to ensure that the monitoring of the implementation of anti-sexual harassment law is strictly done and all organisations that comply with the law should register themselves on a data based at, the report recommended.

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