PESHAWAR: Rukhshinda Naz, the ombudsperson of protection against harassment of women at workplace, has issued more than 1,000 notices to government and no-governmental organisations to adopt mandatory code of conduct prescribed in the law, form standing inquiry committees including a woman member to address cases of sexual harassment and educate staff to make work environment more dignified.

Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 was passed in March 2010 but after a long wait Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government finally appointed Rukhshinda Naz as ombudsperson to hear such complaints.

Although the Act requires every organisation coming in the ambit of the law to form three-member inquiry committee to probe the complaints within 30 days of its enactment but many organisations have failed to form the committees and display the code of conduct at their workplaces.

Ombudsperson says over 1,000 letters have been sent to govt depts and NGOs to adopt code of conduct

“When in February this year the ombudsperson office started function, I sent a generic notice to all relevant organisations but got no response so. I had to send notices to offices and heads of institutions to comply with the law and send me the names of the inquiry committee members by July 31 or face legal action,” said Ms Naz, the first ombudsperson appointed under this Act.

She said that the office received till date 33 complaints. “Despite our limited resources, we are on time and would be soon concluding arguments in two cases,” she added.

Ms Naz also said that the complaints of harassment were received from government departments, private schools and private universities. She said that education department was on top in harassment complaints and then they also got complaints from health department. “There are also complaints of public harassment and on cyber so we are in touch with police and FIA on such complaints,” she added.

Ms Naz said that she had to send out around 1000 letters all over the province to organisations to display the code of conduct and form committees to probe such complaints as review petitions received showed that even inquiry committees needed to be made aware of the law. “After the inquiry committees become functional, we plan to develop capacity and awareness of the members of the law so that it could be properly implemented,” she said.

A provincial harassment watch committee has also been notified and KP Commission on the Status of Women has taken responsibility to watch harassment cases in public transport while members representing civil society organisations have taken up the issue of creating awareness about the law and building capacity of the inquiry committees to enforce the law and hear such complaints.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2019