By: Riaz Ahmad
The issue of sexual harassment of female students at the educational institutes of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province has resurfaced once again. This time, it has sparked a heated debate between the opposition and the government benches in the provincial assembly. Students held an on-campus demonstration against harassment incidents on January 28.
A committee has been formed to probe the matter, a move opposed by one of the province’s senior minister who recommended that ‘women should not attend co-education institutes’ in order to shield themselves from harassment. He lauded the fact that former Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government had catered to separate medical colleges for men and women.
Sexual harassment of female university students is more than unfortunate, but I am short of words over the minister’s unsettling recommendation, which can simply not be condemned enough. However, thankfully, a senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and many lawmakers from the Pakistan Peoples Party favoured the measure of probing harassment on the assembly floor and now the committee is ready to investigate the matter.
It must be understood that reporting harassment is a very brave step by the victim. Owing to substantial gray areas, there is often a lot of ambiguity on what boils down to harassment and what doesn’t. In this way, harassment, as a crime, is more challenging to deal with than rape. But in cases of both rape and harassment, victims are usually leery about raising a voice, which strengthens the perpetrators’ evil resolves. Needless to say, there is a dire need to facilitate victim, to provide them backing and to cater to a platform where they can respectable register their complaints.
Moreover, the harassment of female students has two-pronged consequences. It not only debilitates a student mentally, but also hinders his/her academic performance. Students become poor at academics not because of a lack of talent, but because of the evil designs of those who like to abuse their power.
The most important thing behind cases of harassment could be the fact that teachers and male staffers who harass students have political affiliations which is why they fear no one. This state of affairs can only be negated by giving victims an equally strong backing. There should be a committee in each and every university, comprising also of students’ parents, to take care of such complaints and those involved should be dealt with accordingly.