'pakistan's Labour Laws do Not Create Enabling Environment for Women'


A gender audit of Pakistan’s labour laws has found that they do not create women enabling working environment and suffer from inconsistencies in the definitions of labour and labour rights, among other problems.

The audit was carried out by Women’s Action for Better Workplaces and its findings and recommendations were revealed at an event attended by parliamentarians, political workers, civil society and working women from various fields on October 25th.

One of the organizers, Jublee Bano, said legal experts were consulted for the audit, as were scholars and parliamentarians and workers from the provinces.

Discussing the findings of the audit, a representative of the forum Rukhsana Shama said Pakistan’s constitutional provisions and international commitments were consulted to devise a criteria through which the existing labour laws could be analysed. These categories included freedom of association or freedom to bargain collectively, wages, occupational safety and health, protection against sexual harassment in the workplace, equality of work and opportunities for women and maternity leave and benefits, among others.

The audit found that labour laws do not effectively combat various forms of discrimination against women, including more subtle forms of discrimination against women based on their age, marital status and reproductive role.

Ms Shama said that while laws do combat overt forms of discrimination, for example firing a pregnant woman, they do not cover “subtle discriminations” that are not documented and are a reflection of the social psyche. For example, there are fields in which women above a certain age are not hired. She added that women they spoke to said employers ask women in interviews whether they intend to get married, and if they are married, what their plans are for children.

There were also no measures to enable women to enter fields with lower representation of women, nor incentives for employers to hire more women.

Ms Shama said the workplace sexual harassment law is not mentioned as a labour law in labour law manuals. Labour departments are also not aware of the law’s importance when...

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