Human rights policy

IT is unfortunate that our human rights legislation appears more aspirational than practical. The Sindh government’s progressive and inclusive laws, such as The Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act, 2011, The Sindh Protection of Communal Properties of Minorities Act, 2013, Domestic Violence (Preventation & Protection) Act, 2013, Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Act, 2015 and others, have a profound presence on paper but none in spirit; they fail to protect the people from abuse and exploitation. Hence, one can’t help but view the province’s human rights policy, approved by the provincial cabinet on Wednesday, as another promise destined for oblivion. The policy is in step with the times as it focuses on political, economic, civil, cultural and social rights, including civil liberties of women, children, minorities, differentlyabled people, senior citizens and transgender persons. It will be subject to review every five years to keep pace with international changes and the human rights context of the province.

But despite weighty decrees, according to the Sindh Human Rights Commission’s annual report released early this year, as many as 738 human rights violations occurred in Sindh during 2021 to 2022. Regrettably, successive regimes have seen human rights as handouts to be delivered at will, and the approach is reflected in all strata and spheres of society as well as in a labyrinthine legal system. This mindset has resulted in the dearth of robust social development structures that provide awareness and implementation of legal measures. On the other end, failure to enforce the law is rooted in the ideal of ethical pluralism sans governance that prioritises rescue and well-being. Lastly, Sindh’s admission of falling short on deliverance is pivotal to instituting mass regard for human rights — and set its own mindset, therefore freedoms, on the right path. It must also seek legitimate ways to thwart obstacles — including those who hinder criminalising forced conversions — to advance safety.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2023

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