Advocacy for professional equality for religious minorities in Balochistan

In Pakistan, members of religious minorities frequently suffer violations of their human, socio-economic and political rights, particularly in the province of Balochistan. This poses a global threat to their lives.

In principle, the right to freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed to everyone in Pakistan, since the country is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Yet, in reality, exclusionary nationalism in Pakistan means that members of religious minorities often have their rights curtailed.

As religious minorities, Shiites, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs face discrimination and harassment in employment. The Covid-19 epidemic has only exacerbated this situation; as resources dwindled, a shortage of funding emerged in both the public and private sectors. Employers stopped posting job vacancies, cut wages and, in some cases, terminated employment. Candidates following Balochistan’s majority religion, Sunni Islam, as well as men and non-disabled people, gained an additional advantage in the job market.

In response, Health And Rural Development (HARD) Balochistan designed a project to empower religious minorities, vulnerable women, people with disabilities (PwDs) and other groups affected by discrimination and harassment. The project provided them with valuable knowledge about their employment rights.

This project brought together different groups of minority religions to understand labor laws and defend their rights: men, women, young people and people with disabilities. Through training, they have learned to monitor and document cases of discrimination and harassment against religious minorities.

The group also developed a research report to inform its own advocacy, guide decision makers and generate evidence for advocacy and legislation. They have used this report to advocate for their rights, sensitizing government authorities in Baluchistan and employers on issues relating to minority religions and the right to non-discrimination in employment.

At a conference of Balochistan journalists, project participants held a media engagement session and a press conference. Ms Ayisha (pseudonym), from the Shia-Hazara community, said: “I have been the victim of discrimination and harassment in employment on several occasions during hiring, salary increase and firing by my employers and supervisors and currently I am unemployed after the first Covid-19 lockdown.Now I […] be aware that Articles 20 and 27 [of the] The Constitution of Pakistan and ILO Convention 111 protect my employment rights. I am truly grateful to HARD/MRGI for this project which educated me and empowered me to dare and defend my rights”.

Hassanullah, an employer, said “neither [do] we [employers] We do not have enough information on national and international labor laws, nor have we been notified and informed by the government or any other actor of these legal provisions, because everyone remains daily busy in their own busy schedule. I truly endorse and appreciate HARD & MRGI who not only influenced and diverted our attention from this serious issue but also educated us on how we should follow the law and strictly abide by and combat all kinds of discrimination and harassment in employment, not only against religious minorities but against everyone.

As a result of the project, the Director General of the Balochistan Social Welfare Directorate issued a notification to all employers in the public and private sectors, asking them to comply with all national and international labor laws when hiring, promotion, remuneration and dismissal of minorities. He further called on employers to fulfill their responsibility and properly play their key role in ending discrimination and harassment in employment against religious minorities and other vulnerable communities.

A Parliamentary Member of the Balochistan Assembly and the Secretary General of Baluchistan have expressed concern over the employment issues faced by religious minorities and other vulnerable groups in the province. Acknowledging that discrimination exists in both the public and private sectors, they said they were trying to use their influence to eliminate it.

They also said that a 5% job quota for religious minorities has been set aside and that they will advocate to increase this quota. They appreciated the efforts of HARD and MRGI, acknowledging the many serious issues raised in their report and the way it sensitized them to the issues faced by members of religious minorities in the area of ​​employment.

Participants in the HARD project also presented a Charter of Demands at the press conference. Read their demands below:

Claims Charter

Dear Respected Journalists, Quetta Press Club

Asalam or Alaikum,

Today we, the Minority Rights Advocacy Group of Health And Rural Development (HARD) Balochistan, the right to non-discrimination in employment group, with the help of Minority Rights Group International, present this charter of demand during today’s press conference which was drawn up after an extensive process of consultation / interview during various activities with parliamentarians, secretaries of religious minorities and stakeholders related to discrimination in employment faced by minorities during or before Covid-19 on grounds of religion, creed, identity and race/caste in Balochistan, Pakistan.

Dear journalists, we truly appreciate your contribution to highlighting and addressing the issues of the public, minorities and other vulnerable communities and thank you for your continued support of civil society organizations fighting for rights and development. people, especially minorities, women, children and PwDs. In today’s press conference, we call on the government of Balochistan and other employers/authorities in the public and private sectors;

    1. Provide and ensure minorities equal access to employment opportunities during and after Covid-19
    2. Immediately ensure the proper implementation of labor laws in the public and private sectors to eliminate employment discrimination and harassment against women, minorities and other vulnerable communities during screening, hiring, promotion, increase and continuation of salaries or dismissal in the event of a funding shortage or any emergency such as Covid -19
    3. Develop, ratify and enforce the right to non-discrimination in labor law in light of national and international labor laws in order to eliminate discrimination based on sex, identity, race, color, religion and belief in public and private sector employment when screening, hiring, promoting and continuing services or dismissing them on the occasion of a shortage of funding or any type of emergency such as Covid-19
    4. Minorities, in particular vulnerable minority groups; women, people with disabilities, widows and home-based workers who have lost or been laid off from their jobs must be compensated during the crises of the pandemic and helped to find jobs.Put in place and strengthen existing measures and revise employment/labour laws to ensure minorities and other vulnerable communities have access to equal employment opportunities
    5. Government departments including Labor and Manpower, Social Welfare and the Chief Secretary of Balochistan must issue orders and notices to public and private sector employers to end discrimination in the workplace. employment against minorities at any time when granting a position, promotion, salary increase, etc.
    6. Educate the masses and public and private sector authorities and employers on national and international labor laws and employment rights on the right to non-discrimination in employment at all levels
    7. Establish an oversight mechanism representing minorities to ensure that their employment-related voices, issues and challenges are conveyed to government and other authorities to enable prompt and appropriate responsive action to end discrimination in employment
    8. Guarantee the right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service and the right to receive vocational training and retraining, including apprenticeships, advanced vocational training and vulnerable recurrent training in the public and private sectors employment
    9. CNICs, passports and local certificates should be issued to Shiaa Hazara minorities and families/individuals of other religious minorities so that they can exercise their citizenship rights, including the right to employment.
    10. Increase employment quotas for minorities and take concrete measures to ensure strict compliance with employment quotas reserved for minorities.
    11. Adopt a rights-based approach and promote decent work, productive employment and income opportunities for religious minority communities
    12. Improve skills development and employability of minorities in rural and urban areas.
    13. Build capacity and mobilize media and local CSOs to highlight issues of discrimination in employment and educate employers and the public about labor laws and employment rights of religious minorities

This project was carried out within the framework of the program “Protecting the rights of religious minorities”, with the financial support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

Photo: Collect questionnaires related to discrimination and harassment in employment cases. Credit: HARD Balochistan.

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