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Civil society for notifying rules of business of Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019

Civil Society demanded the government of Punjab to notify rules of business of “Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019.

Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) organized a Stakeholders Consultation on The Punjab Domestic Workers Act, 2019, in Lahore. While appreciating the law, the participants highlighted some concerns and presented recommendations to improve this piece of legislation.

Bushra Khaliq , Executive Director Women in Struggle for Empowerment, said three year have passed ,now the government should notify its rules and implement the law in letter and spirit so that its benefits could be reached to domestic workers.

She further explained and said the govt. should frame rules of business without further delay for effective implementation of the law by reflecting the same in the schedule 2 of Punjab Government Rules of Business, 2001 and to make all the rules as prescribed under Section 2(q) read with Section 38 of the Act of 2019 to enable the departments concerned to applicable the law in letter and spirit.

According to her, “to address the issues of domestic workers, the government of Punjab should activate Dispute Resolution Committees (DRCs) at Union Councils in the province.

She said the law needs some amendments for the welfare of domestic workers. She said in other labor laws the maternity leave is 12 weeks, but Domestic Workers Act 2019 talks about6-weeks maternity leave. This clause does not qualify the sense of Article 25 of the constitution and thus needs to be amended accordingly and maternity leave for women domestic workers be made in line with other laws.

She highlighted the plight of the domestic workers and said, from March 2021 to October 2021, at least 24 cases of violence against Child domestic workers were reported and four of them died which is very alarming.

On the occasion, she said that the government should establish a governing body in which at least 2 women be given representations. She further said Pakistan should ratify ILO Convention C-189.

Ahmer Majeed an advocate said that there were some lacunas which must be addressed. According to law, the child domestic workers could be given light jobs which are against the constitution of Pakistan .According to Constitution of Pakistan; a child from the age of five to sixteen years would get free and compulsory education. He said according to domestic workers act, employees and employers will sign the contract while the child under the age of eighteen years, cannot sign any contract under the law. He further said that if a child is taken from one place to another place for work, it falls into trafficking under law. It is called modern slavery, explained Ahmer Majeed. The minimum age for the employment of domestic workers is set at 15 years. In principle, it cannot be less than the compulsory schooling age. The age limit should be reviewed accordingly, he said.

On the occasion, Iftikhar Muubarak , a child rights activist said, law is one while many departments were given powers of execution and thus involvement of many departments promotes bad governance. No department takes all the responsibility. He demanded compatible legislation. He further said that the mind of the society is also not compatible. He suggested massive campaigns on electronic and social media as well.

Arooma Shahzad GS of DW Union stressed on collective voice and termed it needs of hours. Social Security cards have yet to be issued to the domestic workers, registered so far. Until the functioning of the Workers Welfare Fund, these workers may be linked to other welfare programs; like Ahsaas program. According to her, Workers trade unions, civil society organizations should be involved to expedite the domestic workers’ registration process across the province.

Muhammad Shahid a law officer from Labour Department and Human Resource Government of Punjab , said initial draft of rules of business has been framed and it will be shared with the civil society soon. According to international law , they are bound to have consultation with stakeholders including representatives of labour workers union and domestic workers etc. He said minimum wage would be fixed and average wage is being considered in the Minimum Wage Board. He shared that skilled workers would get more benefit as Domestic workers are skilled workers. He said Dispute resolution committees would be notified soon as the government has restored local government.

Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) welcomes the law “Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019” and appreciates the role of Govt. of Punjab, legislatures and Lahore High Court for legal recognition and safeguarding the rights of Domestic Workers in Punjab. It was a long standing demand of domestic workers and civil society.

Since the passage of the law in January 2019, WISE has been campaigning & advocating for creating awareness, sensitization regarding the effective implementation of this law. We hope for the on-going efforts of the Punjab govt. through registration and provision of social protection would help improve the working conditions and lives of domestic workers in the province.

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