The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has decided to halt financial grants and funding for universities which have yet to reply to take part in a survey on sexual harassment.
According to sources dealing with the issue of sexual harassment, the HEC sent a letter to all 145 universities based on the questionnaire about the update on the implementation of harassment guidelines on campus in April.
The questionnaire contained queries about harassment monitoring officers, their names, the number of cases reported at campus, resolved if any and other details. “To our surprise only 30 of the universities replied, while the rest did not bother to submit any information,” said an officer, involved with the programme, requesting anonymity.
The HEC had developed a code for higher education institutions called the “Policy Guidelines against Sexual Harassment at Institutions of Higher Learning” in 2011.
The guidelines, compiled after consultation with stakeholders, envisaged the appointment of a harassment monitoring officer (HMO) and setting up of a full-time harassment complaint cell to deal with complaints.
According to the guidelines, the HMO is supposed to be an employee of the university appointed by the syndicate, executive council or board of governors, with a minimum of 10 years of service in the institution and bearing sound reputation.
The HMO should act as an impartial counsellor in case of complaint and maintain an unbiased attitude. The officer is supposed to develop tools, educational programmes to promote awareness and foster an environment free of sexual harassment in the institution.
He also has to deal with complaints.
The university administrations were required to set up a harassment complaint cell so that complaints of sexual and other forms of harassment could be lodged.
This cell was required to sensitise all university faculty, staff and students to sexual harassment through workshops and trainings. All staff and faculty employed by the university would be required to complete a three-day sensitisation training programme.
The HEC sent another email as a reminder to the universities in June this year, but few bothered to reply, said an official on the three-member committee.
“Now we have decided to halt projects carried out with HEC’s assistance and funding to those varsities which have not replied yet,” said the official. HEC Media Director Ayesha Ikram told The Express Tribune that the recommendations of the three-member committee would be forwarded to the HEC commission for action against such universities.
The HEC is planning to arrange seminars, conferences and launch awareness campaigns in universities in collaboration with Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA).
“We we will soon launch the campaign by distributing fliers on sexual harassment at campuses to arrest this trend at educational institutions,” said the committee member.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2013.