The Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has found in its initial assessment that cases of gender-based violence and other human rights abuses increased across the province during the lockdown imposed to restrict the spread of Covid-19.
The SHRC held a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the findings of the initial assessment report. The heads and representatives of different institutions and professional groups shared their experiences as well as the challenges they faced during the lockdown.
The commission observed in its assessment that Covid-19 impacted all spheres of life, and human rights is no exception; it rendered a large number of people jobless during the lockdown, causing people to face socio-economic and psychological problems.
SHRC officials said that the commission has been cognisant of the situation and has tried its best to assist the victims of human rights abuses despite the limitations faced on account of the pandemic.
They said that the commission would also like to pick up from the key human rights concerns that have emerged during the health emergency and try its best, according to the mandate, to address these issues.
“The pandemic has affected everyone differently,” said SHRC Chairperson Justice (retd) Majida Razvi. She said that although the commission was closed in the initial period of the lockdown, it continued working during the pandemic on the phone and online. The SHRC recently opened a regional office in Sukkur, she added.
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research Executive Director Karamat Ali underlined the need for a comprehensive social security system in Sindh. “Unemployment allowance should be provided to those workers who were rendered jobless, and universal health care should be made a fundamental right in the constitution.”
SHRC member Zulfiqar Shah said that around 558,000 Covid cases have been recorded and over 12,000 people have lost their lives in the pandemic. “The testing rate in Pakistan is only three per cent. Latest research shows 21 million people lost their jobs and 3.3 million are still jobless.”
Urban Resource Centre Joint Director Zahid Farooq said that when public transport stopped, domestic workers were not able to go to work, indicating that more jobs were lost. “Charity organisations provided relief to people in both urban and rural areas. Due to NGOs’ support, common people survived in the pandemic.”
Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Nuzhat Shireen said that they have developed a policy for Covid-19 and other emergencies, and are closely monitoring the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme.
Sindh High Court Bar Association President Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed said that the courts have been taking limited cases but people are suffering more due to delayed hearings.
He said that several judges died after contracting the coronavirus. He also said that the Sindh government should provide alternative housing to those resident in the Bohri Bazaar, Gujjar Nullah and other areas of Karachi.
Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mahnaz Rahman said that this natural disaster has struck the people with a shock and the daily-wage workers have lost their jobs.
SHRC Secretary Abida Lodhi, former National Commission for Human Rights member Anis Haroon, Provincial Public Safety & Police Complaints Commission member Rubina Brohi, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology Social Sciences Dean Riaz Sheikh, Pakistan Medical Association leader Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro and others also spoke on the occasion.
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