Pakistan’s trans community is celebrating its inclusion in new laws which ban workplace harassment.
The Sindh province, whose seat of government is in Karachi, has drafted a new bill which would outlaw harassment in the workplace.
Sindh drafted the bill to go beyond the Federal Government’s 2010 law so that it was more inclusive of gender. Minister for Women Development, Shehla Raza told The Express Tribune that the 2010 bill did not meet the needs of women.
‘It is not merely for women’s rights. All employees irrespective of his/her gender facing harassment at the workplace can lodge a complaint. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, we have given equal rights to transgender people,’ she said.
‘Widespread complaints from working women about harassment are pouring in.
‘After the 18th Amendment, federal laws are ineffective, hence we are going to make our own law to create a safe environment for all genders.
‘We will take equal action if a woman harasses a man.’
What is workplace harassment?
The Sindh Harassment and Workplace Bill 2018, will criminalise workplace harassment. Those convicted under the law face criminal charges and could potentially lose their jobs.
The following will constitute harassment under the new law: ‘request for sexual favours, sexually demeaning attitude, creating an offensive environment, offering job, promotion, wage increase, training opportunity and transfer from one location to another’.
The Secretary for Women Development Baqaullah Unar said ‘people who gaze at their co-workers with staring eyes will also be punished’.
A special ombudsman will also be setup if the bill becomes law. The role of the ombudsman will be to recruit staff to implement the law, and receive complaints.
Pakistan has some of the most progressive laws for trans people, including an extensive transgender bill of rights. Trans people are recognized on the census. They can also register as a third gender on passports, national ID cards and some drivers licences.
But there is still a long way to go for equality. The trans community continues to face extreme violence and discrimination.