Islamabad: 27th March, 2024:   The Federal Ombudsman of Pakistan, Mr. Ejaz Ahmad Qureshi has said that the Parliament adopted an Act for Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace in 2010 with a view to implementing the relevant provisions in the Constitution and ensuring equal opportunity for men and women and the right to earn a livelihood without fear or any discrimination.

 He was inaugurating a Webinar on Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace, organized under the aegis of Asian Ombudsman Association (AOA), here today. It was attended by the members of the AOA besides the human rights practitioners and activists in addition to the members of the OIC Ombudsman Association (OICOA) and the Forum of Pakistan’s Ombudsman (FPO).

Mr. Ejaz Ahmad Qureshi, who is also the current President of the 47-member strong Asian Ombudsman Association, said that the Constitution of Pakistan upholds the principle of equality and dignity alongwith explicitly prohibiting gender discrimination in all spheres of national life. He further stated that the enactment of the relevant law against harassment in 2010 was followed by two more Acts of the Parliament in 2020 and 2022 respectively, expanding the scope of its legal provision to include men, women and transgenders alike. Enforcement of the Women’s Property Rights was also brought within the purview of these legislative provisions, he added. He said that the Webinar is intended to share Pakistan’s experiences, best practices and the exchange of information with a view to promoting gender equality and the right to work with dignity for all.

Later Ms. Fauzia Viqar, Federal Ombudsperson Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (FOSPAH) also made a presentation on the scope of work and operational framework of the FOSPAH, which was established in 2011. She said that FOSPAH was playing a vital role in upholding the constitutional provision of equality and dignity alongwith striving to create an environment free of harassment and discrimination. She further added that Pakistan has the distinction as being the only country with a dedicated Ombudsperson Institution to deal with the challenges of women empowerment and denial of rights, thereby emphasizing the need for support to over 49% of the population. The presentation was followed by a lively Q/A session, wherein international participants asked searching questions about Pakistan’s experiences in these fields and requested for sharing of best practices to move forward.   

 Organized in the backdrop of the International Women’s Day, the Webinar holds special significance for the member states as these are striving to overcome identical challenges particularly with regard to women empowerment and protection. So far, the Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat has received nearly 75 confirmations to attend the Webinar online. The nominations received from the AOA members included, the People’s Republic of China, Thailand, Japan, Azerbaijan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Korea, Türkiye and Indonesia, apart from the Provincial Ombudsmen in Pakistan and representatives from the Regional Offices of the Wafaqi Mohtasib.