LUMS slammed for 'total erasure of female voice' at major conference

Published: November 25, 2015
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Panelists at the conference PHOTO: kalamresearch.com

Panelists at the conference PHOTO: kalamresearch.com

No one would have expected one of Pakistan’s most prestigious institutions, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), to land into hot water for organising a conference titled Pakistan’s Contribution to the Muslim Intellectual Tradition. But that is exactly what has happened.

The conference, which took place at the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Social Sciences and Humanities at LUMS on November 13, courted ire from various quarters for failing to invite even a single female scholar to speak at the event.

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Students, alumni and faculty of the university have taken severe exception to this grave oversight which ‘actively reinscribe and reinforce’ gender inequalities. One former student Fatima Tassadiq has even started an online petition to protest against the exclusion of women. So far, she has amassed over 200 supporters.

PHOTO: CHANGE.ORG

“We are at a complete loss to understand how a two-day conference boasting six panels, each with multiple speakers, along with chairs, and keynote speakers, was organised without the inclusion of a single woman,” Tassadiq writes in the petition titled Letter of Protest to LUMS MAG School of Humanities Social Sciences.

LUMS has been contacted for comment but has not replied as of yet.

What further irked Tassadiq and many other like-minded individuals was the fact that the university had even  failed to invite a female researcher to chair some of the panels.

“Given the diversity in the backgrounds of participants, it is difficult for us to understand how women were completely excluded from the programme. Are there no female scholars working in these fields? If the organisers of the conference did not receive high quality papers from female researchers responding to the conference’s call for papers, was it not possible to invite female scholars to at least chair some of the panels?” she argues.

“Given that one of the panelists participated in the conference via a proxy who read the paper out, is it unreasonable for us to expect that the same could have been done for female scholars not based in Lahore?”

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Specifically addressing Sohail Naqvi, Ali Khan and Kamal Ahmed Munir, the letter adds, “We are deeply troubled by the total erasure of all female voice at a major conference in one of the leading institutes of the country, especially considering the relatively high number of female academics and students at LUMS.”

Conceding that gender inequality is prevalent within academia all over the world, Tassadiq’s allows that LUMS could not be expected to right this enormous wrong in one go. However, she maintains that such events actively compound the matter.

“All male conferences in 2015 are not mere accidents, nor are they to be taken lightly. Far from passively reflecting pre-existing gender inequities, such events actively reinscribe and reinforce the exclusion of women.”

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Another Indian
    Nov 25, 2015 - 6:09PM

    Speaking of diversity.. Was there anyone else other than a muslim? Recommend

  • Dr. X
    Nov 25, 2015 - 7:51PM

    I’m a bit surprised by the arguments of this lady. Not sure how many academic conferences she has attended but the only criteria for selection is merit. Most conferences have anonymous submissions so that author information is stripped away anyway. The likelihood of no female participant making the cut is low but probable. The likelihood of LUMS actively blocking female speakers (for whatever reason) is much much lower. Recommend

  • hamza khan
    Nov 25, 2015 - 9:34PM

    would outcry have been the same if it was all-female? and shut your mouth indian boy..Recommend

  • Madih
    Nov 25, 2015 - 10:46PM

    Fatima Tassadiq’s moment of fame. Recommend

  • RA
    Nov 25, 2015 - 11:02PM

    @Another Indian: It’s like asking “Was there anyone else other than a Hindu?” at a conference of Shaiva, Vaishnava or Vedanta philosophy. Cool it man!Recommend

  • RA
    Nov 25, 2015 - 11:03PM

    Shame on LUMS!Recommend

  • Parvez
    Nov 25, 2015 - 11:31PM

    Is LUMS being funded by Saudi Arabia ?Recommend

  • Nouman
    Nov 26, 2015 - 12:59AM

    @Another Indian:
    Yes there are Hindus too. A christiam student is also enrolled.Recommend

  • Uzair
    Nov 26, 2015 - 1:53AM

    If the selection was based on merit, then is this a problem? Should there have been quotas/reserved seats for women? That’s where feminist ideas fail to answer the question. If an opportunity is open for all and females don’t make it on merit-based selection, then should we blame meritocracy as being patriarchal?Recommend

  • Another Indian
    Nov 26, 2015 - 2:55AM

    @RA.. Yup.. I didnt quite notice the title of the conference.. Then again who would have thought most prestigious management institute will discuss on contribution toward a particular religion. Its like IIM(Indian Institute of Management) holding a discussion on India’s contribution to Hindu intellectual tradition.

    Get the difference?Recommend

  • Flipflop
    Nov 26, 2015 - 3:40AM

    I think people in Pakistan don’t really understand the concept of “MERIT”. If by any chance the panel blocked any participation of females due to their extremist believes then serious actions should be taken since it hiders learning and growth opportunities for all genders. I really don’t understand whats up with Muslims oppressing a specific gender. Recommend

  • Eve
    Nov 26, 2015 - 8:23AM

    Does it even qualify to be called a news!Recommend

  • Wah wah
    Nov 26, 2015 - 8:47AM

    @Another Indian:
    Please do not comment for the sake of comment. If you didn’t even noticed the title why did you people jump to comments section directly. Secondly, your point is absolutely invalid as conferences and documentaries from prestigious institutions may target a particular audience and religion. Do you have any problem with National Geographic who made 1001 inventions series which featured contributions of only Muslim scientists? At least have a reason in your argument.Recommend

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