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November 13, 2020

Issue of sexual harassment resurfaces on campuses

Peshawar

November 13, 2020

PESHAWAR: The issue of sexual harassment has resurfaced in the educational institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and triggered concern among parents.

In the historic Islamia College University (ICU), the students staged a protest to urge the university administration as well as the government to provide them protection and implement the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) policy against sexual harassment. The students’ protest prompted the university administration and the Governor’s Secretariat to issue immediate orders to address the issue. The Governor’s Secretariat through a letter asked the university administration to provide them a report about the issue within two days.

The letter stated that the governor has taken serious notice of the alleged sexual harassment of female students by the teachers and management of the Islamia College University about which a protest had also been staged. Vice-chancellor of the university, Prof Dr Jahan Bakht, who is holding additional charge as he is vice-chancellor of another university, said that he had already referred the case to the sexual harassment committee of the university that would look into as per law. He said being father of four daughters, he himself was seriously concerned about the issue and has a policy of “zero tolerance’ in such matters. The VC maintained that this was the first case reported in the university and he took immediate notice of it. He said that the matter was discussed in the Academic Council meeting on Thursday and the heads of different departments were strictly directed to take every step to ensure protection to the girl students.

He said women constitute 52 percent of the population of the country and such incidents would discourage them from getting education, he added. “The teachers should serve like the father of the students and they should be the one to provide protection to them,” he argued.

He said that no lethargy would be shown in pursuing the case and taking it to its logical conclusion. The HEC policy on sexual harassment had been adopted and action would be taken in light of it, he assured. The students of the university believed that they were feeling insecure in the university. They alleged that their own teachers harass them mainly on the pretext of giving them maximum marks, accepting the research and doing them favour in their studies.

They said that the university administration had badly failed in taking appropriate action against the harassers. The university administration should own and display the HEC policy at every corner of the institution, they added. Sexual harassment of students in educational institutions right from primary schools until universities has become a serious issue in the province. It needs serious consideration and only strict action can help overcome it. The incidents of sexual harassment of girl students have been reported in many universities of the province.

In some cases, even teachers were dismissed from services. Similar cases surfaced in all major institutions including University of Peshawar, Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan and University of Malakand at Chakdara. This is a serious issue. It is hard for victims to come forward and lodge complaints or go public. But in the Islamia College University, the students were bold enough to go public and stage a peace walk to highlight the issue. Fingers were also pointed at some teachers on the occasion and serious allegations were levelled against them.

Some of the teachers told The News that the motive behind such cases and even the complaints needed to be properly investigated and responsibility fixed.

“The profiles of the accused and the complainants should also be checked in a transparent manner,” one of the teachers said. “It is very easy to level allegation of sexual harassment against anyone and play with his career and chastity,” he said, adding, this should be checked properly.

“If someone is found guilty of harassing students, he should be given exemplary punishment. But if someone has lodged a false and fake complaint against someone, he/she should also be awarded punishment,” the teacher argued.