Sexual harassment on college campuses in Pakistan is not a hidden truth! It is not uncommon! We all have heard countless stories from the women around us; stories of assault at the hands of a “well reputed” faculty member! The only difference now is that Pakistani women are using their voice to highlight the grave issue of predatory behavior on campuses in Pakistan.
It was only two days ago when an IBA student took to Twitter to share her story and how the then management of Pakistan’s most reputed university manipulated the girl in keeping mum instead of bringing the offender to justice.
And now a news is making rounds that 6 students of the University of Karachi have filed a complaint against two faculty members for blackmailing the students in order to receive sexual favors and threatening to fail them in case of non-compliance.
The written complaint identifies Osama Shafiq (Asst. Professor & Evening In-Charge) and Noman Ansari (Cooperative Lecturer) of the Mass Communication Department as the main accused who according to the complainants,
“…reach out to some of the students personally, telling them that it is okay if they are not able to attend most of the classes due to their jobs and then turning back on their words when they are under the short of attendance umbrella. Texting them, claiming that their attendance is short and they will not be allowed to appear in the exam. When the students seek help, they tell them their case is special and it needs to be addressed personally. They are asked to be in the teacher’s room, where some students went as far as to say that they tried to physically harass them.”
What is more disturbing is that according to the letter, the Chairperson of the department and other senior faculty members are well aware of the situation but have chosen to turn a blind eye, enabling the predators to operate fearlessly, and mind you, the present Chairperson of the Mass Comm. Dept. is a woman!
The 6 students have, hence, demanded a committee to be set up to investigate the matter. The letter also requests to keep the identities of the complainants confidential in order to protect them from any harm. Here’s the full text of the letter!
This is not the first time that students of Karachi University have brought the prevalent issue of sexual harassment and predatory behavior on campuses in the management’s notice. In fact, a Facebook page named Exposing Perverts at Universities was created in 2014 where screenshots of some extremely discomforting chats of the likes of Dr. Moonis Ahmer were shared. The About section of the page also says that apparently the management of UoK is also involved in the matter and are on the wrong side, obviously!
But this is not it! In the last five years, many cases have surfaced where students took their own life or were brutally killed after being sexually assaulted on campus.
In a country where majority of the girls are not sent to school, those who make it to the universities, have to go through traumatizing experiences just to exercise a right as basic as education.
Contrary to shaping a safer environment for the students, the institutes, private or public, favor and more so, enable the offenders with complex policies and close to zero accountability.
It’s about time that laws are made at both federal level and provincial level to counter sexual harassment on campuses and hold universities answerable for the complaints filed.
There’s also a dire need to set up a counseling body in each HEC certified university in order to help the survivors overcome their trauma.
Last but not the least, a comprehensive campaign should be run on social media to create awareness about on-campus sexual harassment and to name and shame the sinners because things won’t change until the culprits are slapped with career-ending consequences.
For now, we hope and pray that unlike previous cases, this time the University of Karachi will stand with the survivors, not the predators!