No Ombudspersons appointed despite passage of 7 months
By: Asma Ghani
ISLAMABAD — The Government has not yet been able to appoint Ombudspersons at the federal and provincial levels despite passage of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 in March and this delay is causing hurdles in providing justice to the victims.
President Asif Ali Zardari signed the Act on March 9 this year and the Government notified it on March 11. Although the Government as well as private sector organisations have constituted inquiry committees and are in the process of conducting awareness sessions for their employees, which is a prerequisite for every organisation after the enactment of the law, yet the Government has failed to appoint Ombudspersons.
The Act, which provides an opportunity to the victim to approach a neutral person directly if the inquiry committees constituted within the organisations fail to provide justice to the victim, cannot be implemented completely till the appointment of the Ombudspersons.
According to the Law, the Government has to appoint Ombudsperson at the federal as well as at the provincial levels to deal with the complaints of sexual harassment. The Ombudsperson would have the same powers as enjoyed by the High Court to punish any person for any such contempt.
Under the Law any employee would have the option to file a complaint either to the inquiry committee or the Ombudsperson. In case of filing a complaint with the Ombudsperson, the management will respond to any inquiries that the Ombudsperson might have regarding information related to the case. It will be mandatory for the management to abide by the decision of the Ombudsperson.
Acknowledging that not every organisation might have a sturdy mechanism as prescribed for addressing sexual harassment, the option of approaching Ombudspersons has been included in the Law. If the perpetrator is too senior or is the owner of the organisation, in such cases it might not be possible for the inquiry committee to hold the person accountable. Similarly if the committee is composed of credible people and an employee does not develop trust for them, there is a provision in the Law for directly approaching the office of the Ombudsperson.
Source: The Nation