The Course of Action
Summary of the Process through which The Code of Conduct was drafted:
The Minister for Women Development Social Welfare and Special Education, Dr. Attiya Inayatullah, recognizing the need for a safe and harassment free work environment for women and men, took the initiative on policy formulation in this regard.
This initiative was taken in recognition of the undue stress and suffering women workers are subjected to.
Women have always been economic agents; whether in the office space as managers or secretaries, in the services industry as nursing or teaching, in factories making garments or incense, in agriculture for vegetable cultivation or sowing, in domestic spaces as maids or in the home for household management.
But viewing them as thinking, feeling human beings with needs, requirements and hopes of their own is a perspective that's been put aside in the process. The human value has become secondary to the economical and sexual value placed on them.
Harassment affects all women who suffer it, and according to some estimates, almost eighty to ninety percent of women do – in public transport and markets, on the roads and recreational spots, and in the workplace. The dynamics of harassment at the workplace take on special significance considering the amount of time an adult spends at the workplace and the spillover effects on career growth, worker productivity, general well being and peace of mind and fundamental rights of workers.
In December 2001, Dr. Attiya Inayatullah requested AASHA (an alliance of organizations against sexual harassment at the workplace) to assist in drafting a comprehensive Code for Gender Justice at the Workplace.
Since then, Dr. Attiya Inayatullah has been the driving force urging the formulation of policies and advocating this Code.
The Minister stressed that the Code of Conduct should be mandatory for all registered public and private organizations that count as workplaces, and said it should be incorporated with other workplace regulating management policies.
The following steps were taken to draft the Code:
- At first, relevant literature on harassment at the workplace from all over the world was reviewed, and then a prime focus on documentation within Pakistan was extensively studied. It was found that there was not adequate information regarding Pakistan's current situation and nor was the extent of abuse completely understood or documented except a few isolated studies of cluster groups.
A situational analysis of sexual harassment at the workplace, concentrating on women workers in the nursing profession, marketing and sales personnel, office workers and domestic workers and agriculture workers of the informal sector was conducted. This study was meant to be an indicative analysis giving direction to further work and to gauge the level of harassment to these categories identified as most vulnerable to harassment.
Laws of different countries pertaining to harassment were also reviewed, with particular reference to countries with similar contexts, such as Malaysia and Bangladesh (being Muslim countries) and India and Sri Lanka (belonging to the geographical region)
After studying these laws and in conjunction with the findings of situational analysis on Pakistan, a Code of Conduct was drafted.
Comments were sought from experts and lawyers for validation of its legality.
The Women's Ministry expressed interest in formalizing the Code after a revision, through holding provincial consultations. The government undertook the consultations, and the Ministry contacted its provincial counterparts to examine the draft codes and get expert opinions and technical inputs as well as broad based views through organized meetings.
The Ministry for Women Development asked the Ministry for Labor, ILO and AASHA members to provide technical support and partnership in this process.
The consultations were held in all four provinces to consider the feedback of all provinces on the draft before it is enforced.
The key objective of the consultations was to collect inputs from key specialists and stakeholders of provinces on the draft code of conduct and plan on working towards its implementation.
National Technical Meeting on the Code of Conduct for Gender Justice at the Workplace
The technical meeting was held with the government, representatives of employers and workers and concerned civil society organisations for giving a final shape to the Code of Conduct for Gender Justice at the Workplace on 22nd August 2002, on ILO premises in Islamabad.
The meeting was jointly hosted by the Ministry for Women's Development and Ministry of Labour and Manpower. It was co-chaired by Dr. Attiya Inayatullah, the Federal Minister for Women Development and Mr. Owais Ghani, Federal Minister for Labour and Manpower.
Representatives of primary stakeholders, the employers and employees attended the consultation meeting. Representatives of Employers Federation from Workers Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan (WEBCOP) and Industrial Relation Expert were present, as were trade unions representing Pakistan Workers Confederation and All Pakitan Federation of Trade Unions.
Both parties endorsed the Code, recognized the need for its promulgation and appreciated the effort. The Employers Federation requested additional time to present the Code in meetings with other employers' bodies and said that their comments would be forwarded within a week.
Civil society members were present and contributed to the discussion on the Code. This included lawyers, academicians, scholars, intelligentsia, policy analysts, human rights and women activists, and those working on women's work concerns.
International organizations working on development were in attendance, such as CIDA, and bodies of the United Nations, vocally supported the Code.
Ms. Parveen Qadir Agha, the Secretary of the Ministry of Women Development, opened the meeting, thanked Dr. Attiya for having taken the initiative for the Code and spoke about the government's unprecedented stand in tackling this concern head on. She hoped that the meeting would endorse the Code since the provincial consultations had extended their approval, and that concrete steps for implementation would be discussed.
Dr. Attiya Inayatuulah commended the present government for its initiatives in the social sector and for rights of people, and underlined the importance and efforts to engage in public discourse and promote collective action. The Code of Conduct encapsulated all the development perspectives of the government and the mimistry hoped that the future government would carry forward the tone and tenor of this initiative. She concluded by stressing that traditional constructs of masculinity needed critical analysis to promote the rights of women and men across Pakistan in the movement for gender justice.
Sameena Hassan Senior Gender Specialist ILO, stated that international trends make explicit, from all vantage points that sexual harassment is unacceptable, must be prevented and prohibited, and that the ILO recognizes it as a major obstacle for women workers. She highlighted that since 1985, ILO has declared sexual harassment as illegal since it undermines concepts of equality, and said that the organization would extend full cooperation to the government in this initiative.
Dr. Fouzia Saeed, Country Director of Action Aid, which is a member of AASHA, briefly explained to participants the evolution and process of the Code and its salient features. She explained the Code would feed into management policies of organizations and that the management would be responsible for promotion, awareness and implementation of the Code.
The text of the Code was summarily shared and certain points within it were discussed at length.
The Minister for Labor, Owais Ghani stated that the Code of Conduct was a good initiative and commendable effort to increase the sensitivity level in people. He said that such processes were instrumental in the transition of a nation. However, he expressed reservations that on its own, the Code would not suffice as it had no implementation force and is voluntary. He strongly suggested that it should be in a form that is enforceable.
Two concrete recommendations he made were firstly, the immediate hiring of a female labor officer in each province, and secondly, that the ESTA code be referred to. The first recommendation was immediately seconded by Dr. Attiya and a decision was taken to set aside the fund for such hirings.
Most of the discussion centered around what the Code should be titled and whether the title should explicitly indicate it being a Code on "sexual harassment" at the workplace.
The pros and cons of using this phrase were debated at length as most representatives of civil society, ngo and labor / employee representatives felt the issue be recognized head on. The participants from Employer Federations expressed some reservation about defining the Code as such since the stigma of association with such a code may inhibit women from taking action under it.
The Minister for Women Development addressed the debate and asked the participants to support her suggestion to let it be addressed as Code on Gender Harassment since it was expedient for the government to push the initiative through in this manner. She encouraged civil society to address it directly but stated the government needed to be more circumspect.
The discussion was then taken to the floor and participants came up with various recommendations. Among the suggestions were
- Through NILAT, gender awareness trainings be imparted
The document be examined by WEBCOP
In ESTA code, where misconduct is defined with examples, another example of sexual harassment be added
For cases of sexual harassment between workers, an addition could be made to the Standing Committees
Order, but this would not cover managers or persons in authority.
The Standing Committee should not constitute just management but also the CBA, WEBCOP and Employer's
Federation, but it would only cover companies which have trade unions.
The suggestion to constitute a follow up committee was unanimously endorsed. This committee would be responsible for carrying the code forward after it was officially adopted by the government and advocate implementation. This would include representatives of the Women's Ministry and Ministry of Labour, the labour confederation, workers confederation, employer's union and AASHA members.
It was stated the Code, in its preamble should refer to the National Plan of Action and National Policy for Women. Other specific suggestions were made on the mechanisms & inquiry process
Summary - Feedback and Recommendation from the Provisional Consultations
Detail - Provisional Consultation in Punjab
Detail - Provisional Consultation in Baluchistan
Detail - Provisional Consultation in NWFP
Detail - Provisional Consultation in Sindh