By: Haniya Javed
Recently, one of the biggest public universities of Karachi, the University of Karachi (KU), came under the limelight for sexual harassment owing to back-to-back cases that directly involved male teachers as perpetrators.
With thousands of students flocking inside the university’s 52 departments in the morning and evening programmes, of which girls make up roughly 70 per cent, it is then alarming to see the rising number of such cases. There has been a lot of hullabaloo concerning the formation of a formal complaint cell inside the university in compliance to the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010. How serious is the administration about setting up a complaint centre? Who will be on it, and what are the requisites for any complaint to be named as a sexual harassment case? All these questions need to be addressed.
There is an ongoing campaign on social media about the alleged perverts that are found in KU. People who are part of such conversations say that a platform like social media is often the last resort as everyone from the university’s management to the media has been unwilling to help. Reportedly, the perpetrator involved in the most recent case is not only a teacher, but also holds an esteemed position in the administration. Considering this, how far can one trust the university’s attempt to set up a complaint department knowing that people who will become part of it will be from the university? There will always be pressure from someone ‘influential’, who will not want to be disgraced. So, how can female students trust these people knowing that it’s the faculty and members from the administration, who may be involved in these acts in the first place?
The only rational solution to deal with this situation is to form an independent body — unattached from KU’s higher officials — who have a direct yet objective stance towards such cases. The major issue that looms in every corner of our society is victim-blaming. The reasoning goes somewhat like this: ‘Person X fell prey to it because she encouraged it, and shouldn’t have responded to the perpetrator in the first place.’ The first thing to ensure in such cases is that the truth comes out. No one likes to make a mockery of themselves, especially in a society like ours, where the mere act of speaking out against harassment can lead the victim to end up in serious trouble. To deal intelligently with this issue, we first have to gain the trust of victims who have and continue to face harassment.