During the last three years, landmark legislation has been made in the Country to ensure such rights, i.e. rights of women, children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs), etc.
The latest major laws include:
- The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020;
- Legal Aid and Justice Authority Act, 2020;
- The Islamabad Capital Territory Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2020;
- The Islamabad Capital Territory Senior Citizens Act, 2021;
- The Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights (Amendment) Act, 2021.
- Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act, 2021;
- The Protection of Parents Ordinance, 2021;
- Proscription of “Child Domestic Labour” through insertion in the list of occupations in Part-I of the Schedule of the Employment of Children’s Act, 1991 (to ban at ICT level).
- Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace (Amendment) Act, 2022.
The following laws have recently been promulgated:
- Protection of Journalists & Media Professionals Act, 2021;
- The ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act, 2021;
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2021 (to effectually tackle the pervading instances of rape & sexual abuse in respect of women & children).
The latest legislation is beneficial for the public as it ensures the protection of rights in their day-to-day life. Some key benefits to the public, in this context, are mentioned as under:
- The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) has been established under the latest legislation to raise alerts, response and recovery of missing and abducted children. A Zainab Alert App has also been linked with the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (Citizen Portal). The Director General, ZARRA has been appointed and the agency is functional. Every citizen can access the ZARRA online in connection with filing/ tracking complaints relating to raising alerts, response and recovery of missing and abducted children. Moreover, the ZARRA is a platform to effectively coordinate and monitor the cases of missing and abducted children countrywide.
- Legal Aid and Justice Authority has been established under the Legal Aid and Justice Authority Act, 2020 to provide legal, financial and other assistance for access to justice to the poor and vulnerable segments of society, in criminal cases and for matters ancillary thereto.
- The Council on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been notified which is endeavoring for the promotion and protection of PWDs’ Rights through various initiatives including implementation of PWDs’ reserved quota in jobs. Meetings of the Medical Assessment Board were arranged in the Secretariat of Council for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities and 396 Disability Certificates have been issued to PWDs.
- ‘The ICT Senior Citizens Act, 2021’ has recently been enacted which provides for establishment and maintenance of an old-age home, and senior citizens’ free of charge entry to public museums, libraries, parks and recreation facilities, provision of express lanes in all government establishments, financial support to deserving senior citizens, provision, at the government hospitals or hospitals fully or partially funded by the government.
- Through the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights (Amendment) Act, 2021, the rights of ownership and possession of property by women have been protected at ICT level. Through this law, it has been ensured that such rights are not violated by means of harassment, coercion, force or fraud. As a result of the above Amendment, any person aggrieved by a decision of the Ombudsman, may, within 30 days of decision make a representation to the President.
- Besides the Ministry of Human Rights’ Toll Free Human Rights Helpline 1099, a Gender Protection Unit (GPU) has been established at Islamabad level with Helpline 8090 to rescue the victims of gender-based violence. Moreover, in May 2021, a notification was issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice, which states that “in pursuance of the powers conferred by sub-section 3 of section 3 of the Anti-Rape (Investigation & Trial) Ordinance, 2020, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in consultation with the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan has been pleased to designate all courts of Sessions Judges throughout Pakistan as Special Courts under the Ordinance” for speedy trials of rape cases. Moreover, the Parliament in its Joint Sitting, held on 17th November 2021 has passed “The Anti-Rape (Investigation & Trial) Act, 2021”.
- Through promulgation of “The Protection of Parents Ordinance, 2021”, the rights of parents are being protected across Pakistan. The law prohibits expulsion or eviction of parents by ungrateful children or grandchildren. In this regard, the local authorities have been empowered to aid the parents in case of violation. Such violation has been made punishable act through this Ordinance. “The Protection of Parents Bill, 2021” is also under consideration in the Parliament.
- The “Child Domestic Labour” has been proscribed by inserting the same in the list of occupations listed in Part-I of the Schedule of the Employment of Children’s Act, 1991. Through this intervention, “Child Domestic Labour” is banned at ICT level since issuance of Notification, dated 4th August 2020.
- Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace (Amendment) Act, 2022 has been passed by the Parliament in the month of January 2022. The amendment has broadened the definition of harassment and specifically included domestic workers who were usually at a greater risk of violence and harassment at workplace.
Note: The above information was shared with the National Assembly of Pakistan by the Minister for Human Rights Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada on October 10, 2022.