While Pakistan’s education system has problems ranging from inadequate teaching staff to flawed learning methods, the recent case at IBA Karachi has underlined the extent of harassment in the institutions, and how it is brushed under the carpet by those who are supposed to curb it.
Universities in Pakistan not only ignore the harassment complaints, but instead blame the victim. If a complaint of sexual harassment is heard, the response targets the dress of the victim or vows to introduce moral policing policies instead of punishing the harassers.
It doesn’t help that our society discourages opening up about harassment and then shames the victim. This naturally impacts the students who are pushed into silence. When their genuine complaints are not heeded, the victims plunge into self-doubt.
Many say that sexual harassment in Pakistan has increased, where in fact it’s the reporting that has become more frequent. Lesser victims stay quiet today than they used to. However, many victims still fear backlash and even persecution. We have seen how defamation cases are filed against women who make a complaint over sexual harassment.
Our dramas are also responsible for stereotyping women who wear jeans and short shirts as ‘bad’. One must ask, what exactly is a ‘bad’ or a ‘good’ woman? Why can’t we let women lead their own lives?
It doesn’t help that our society discourages opening up about harassment and then shames the victim. This naturally impacts the students who are pushed into silence
Instead of judging others for clothing choices, an individual’s worth should be linked to how they treat others.
Unfortunately, our society is more interested in infringing upon others’ rights. Hence, the society inadvertently facilitates sexual harassment.
We need to urge the government to take harassment seriously and implement the law. The law requires that codes of conduct be pasted in all relevant offices, but is rarely implemented at workplaces.
It is time the government worked on ensuring that harassers are punished and victims protected so that more people can muster the courage to speak out.
We as a society need to understand that harassment is a grave concern. Every woman who makes a complaint should be equally heard, regardless of her clothes or lifestyle.