ISLAMABAD, March 29: The Federal Ombudsperson’s Secretariat on Friday urged both government and private organisations to display the code of conduct for the protection of women against harassment at workplaces.
The directions came after Justice Yasmeen Abbasi, who took charge as Ombudsperson two weeks ago, noticed how most offices had not taken appropriate measures for the protection of women.
In a letter written to both government and private offices, Justice Yasmeen directed organisations to constitute a three- member committee, which included at least one woman, to address the complaints of harassment and ensure speedy justice.
The Ombudsperson asked organisations to adopt the Code of Conduct as prescribed under Section 11 of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010, and to display copies of it in English as well as the language which most employees understood, at conspicuous places in the organisation.
She particularly emphasised on educating employees about the provisions of the Act and to encourage a professional work environment. The letter also asks for an implementation report to be submitted to the Ombudsman Secretariat within a fortnight of receiving the letter.
The Ombudsperson’s Secretariat, promulgated on March 9, 2010, actively started working in July 2011. Since then, 120 cases had been decided with most cases coming from the government and semi-government sectors. These cases include the incident of sexual harassment in the Quaid-e-Azam University last year which was highly publicised.
Two years on, both government and private sectors have failed to comply with the laws.
“Until there is awareness, employees won’t know how to speak up against sexual harassment in workplaces,” said Publications Officer, Federal Ombudsperson’s Secretariat Mohammad Abbas. He said the Code of Conduct was easily available on the internet and bookstores.
Mr Abbas added that the Secretariat’s biggest achievement was the implementation of the decisions, citing the dismissal from service of a driver in a government college as an example.
However, both private and government offices have taken a lax attitude towards the Act, which is punishable under the Act.
A senior government official said, “I am aware of the law but never felt the need of actually displaying the code of conduct. My team members are educated individuals, and there has never been a case of sexual harassment in my office.”
A senior manager in a registered private organisation said it never occurred to her to put the code of conduct which spread over seven to eight pages, and that she had no idea where to get it from.