GHOTKI: Harassment of any individual for any reason isn’t acceptable at any cost. Universities in Pakistan have a real fight on their hands when it comes to tackling pervasive sexism, misconduct and sexual harassment on campus. Recently, a final-year student of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University in Nawabshah, Sindh, accused her professor, the head of the English department, for harassing her for months.
While addressing a press conference along with her father at the press club, she added that she had informed the vice-chancellor of the university several times, but he never took her concern seriously and didn’t take any action against the accused professor.
However, the student’s plea for justice has been taken up by the Sindh High Court and a separate four-member inquiry committee will investigate her complaint and report its findings to the province’s chief minister.
Such cases demonstrate that many educational institutions, instead of addressing the complaints of their students fairly, are too concerned about protecting their own reputation and that of their academic staff. Though it is impossible to estimate the extent of the problem — public records are few and victims show reluctance to register complaints because it risks their academic career — sexism is rife in male-led institutions.
Students will only be encouraged to break their silence on cases of harassment when universities start registering and investigating complaints, and ensuring that there is zero tolerance for this type of behaviour.
Deen Muhammad Ghoto
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2018.