Educational institutions ignore curbing sexual harassment
ISLAMABAD: Although over one year passed since Higher Education Commission (HEC) issued instructions to establish sexual harassment committees in educational institutions, 98 out of 138 universities and degree awarding institutes (DAI) in the country were yet to comply.
National Defence University (NDU), Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Pakistan Naval Academy, King Edward Medical University, Lahore University of Medical Sciences (Lums), Muhammad Ali Jinnah University (Maju), Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology were in the list of those who did not implement HEC’s instructions.
However, 40 universities including National University of Science and Technology (Nust), Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), Agha Khan University and Hamdard University have accepted and implemented the harassment policy and have provided the names of the cell/committee members to the HEC, Dawn has learnt reliably.
According to sources, after an incident regarding sexual harassment of a student was reported at Quaid-i-Azam Postgraduate Medical College in January last year, the HEC not only established a committee to deal with such complaints but also instructed universities and the DAIs all over the country to appoint Harassment Monitoring Officers (HMOs) and set up fulltime Harassment Complaint Cells (HCCs) to deal with such complaints.
As per guidelines, the HMO was supposed to be a regular employee of the university appointed by the Syndicate, Executive Council or Board of Governors (BoG) with minimum 10 years of service in the same institution and bearing good moral character and repute.
Apart from this, as per the guidelines, the HMO had to act as an impartial counselor and advisor to any member of the university and maintain unbiased attitude to all complaints.
This would require a team consisting of a fulltime trained professional HMOs, computer specialists and assistants, who could follow up the documentation through relevant offices. So HEC instructed the universities/DAI to constitute cells, nominate the HMOs and inform HEC about them, they said.
According to documents available with Dawn out of the total 21 universities/DAI chartered by the government of Pakistan, 16 institutes, including AIOU, NDU, PMA, PNA, QAU and Federal Urdu University have not intimated the HEC whether they constituted these cells or not.
Out of 18 institutes chartered by Punjab government, 14 including Bahauddin Zakaria University (BZU), King Edward Medical University, University of Punjab (PU), and University of Sargodha have also failed to establish the cells.
As many as 13 institutes have been running under the charter of Sindh government but out of these 10 institutes including DAW University, Shah Abdul Latif University, Benazir Bhutto Medical University, University of Karachi, University of Sindh and others have also neither bothered to establish the cells nor sent any information to the HEC.
Out of 15 institutes chartered by government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 10 institutes including Abdul Wali Khan University, Gomal University, Islamia College University, University of Swat and others have not formed cells.
Whereas out of the five institutes being run under the charter of Balochistan government, three universities i.e. Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University and University of Balochistan, have failed to establish the complaint cells.
Only two universities – Mirpur University of Science and Technology and University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir – are being run under the charter of government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and both were to constitute the harassment cells and inform about them to the higher education commission.
All the 63 universities/DAI being run by private sector were also instructed by the HEC to establish HCCs and inform the commission about the HMOs but only 21 have formed these cells.
Those who failed to comply the orders included Lums, Riphah International University, Beacon House National University, The Superior College, University of Lahore, Baqai Medical University, Iqra University, Maju, Preston, Ghulam
Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Al-Hamd Islamic University, Al-Khair University.
An officer of the HEC requesting not to be quoted said “government universities do not take such instructions seriously while private universities see it as wastage of money and ovoid having to do the extra work on establishing these cells and hesitate in complying”.
“In July 2011, an incident of sexual harassment took place at Quaid-i-Azam University and it was reported. Later the university formed a committee to settle the case and afterwards it became non-functional – that is why universities’ management hesitate sending information about the cell or committee to the HEC. It shows that management of the universities is not only lazy but also carefree about their prestige. They even don’t have HMOs”, he said.
According to a spokesperson for HEC, only 40 institutes have provided the names of the committee members.
The commission only pursues those cases in which a complaint is directly lodged with to HEC. During the last six months only one case from QAU was reported to HEC.
Quaid-i-Azam University Registrar, Dr Shafiqueur Rehman said they had formed a committee headed by Dr Saqib when an issue of sexual harassment was reported in the campus and HEC was aware of it.
Allama Iqbal Open University’s director public relations could not be contacted however Director Wasim Haider made an apology and refused to talk about the issue.
Spokesman for National University of Modern Languages (Numl) said they have formed a committee headed by the Registrar, Sajida Tahir but he failed to reply that why HEC was not intimated about the committee.
Executive Director Higher Education Commission Sohail Naqvi could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.