The Law on Protection of women against workplace harassment passed in 2010 bounds provinces to appoint Ombudsperson. The law remained ineffective in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in its spirit for eight years after its enactment because of absence of Ombudsperson, to provide any protection to women against harassment.
Three names were proposed for the position of Ombudsperson meeting the criteria as per law. Today Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Cabinet has approved Rukhshanda Naz as Ombudsperson for the province.
Ms. Rukhshanda Naz has been an activist in the Pakistani women’s movement since the early 1990s. A lawyer by profession, and a veteran feminist. She is carrying a diverse experience of working across national and international organizations, human rights /peace groups with a strong commitment to women rights and peace at large. Ms. Naz is currently Executive Director of an organization name “legal Aid and Awareness Services (LAAS) working on empowerment of marginalized communities. The decision today has given a ray of hope for resolving the pending cases of harassment from the province which were earlier sent to Peshawar High Court.
“Harassment” in the law is defined as “Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or request or is made a condition for employment.”
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the third province after Punjab and Sindh to have appointed ombudsperson. At this time two other women-related legislations are pending in the assembly, of Child Marriage Restraint Amendment Bill and Domestic Violence Bill.