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Schools Must Remain Vigilant To Save Students From Harassment

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Sexual harassment on campuses continues to be a prevalent problem in Pakistan’s educational institutions.

There is a trap after trap for a woman student in this state. A teacher chases a female student for physical pleasure at school, a professor pursues her for the same at the university, and senior management runs after her in professional fields.

The recent Lahore Grammar School (LGS) incident is shocking to say the least.

When the harassers crossed all limits in chasing their female students through digital devices, some LGS girls chose to speak up; thus going public with their allegations. Emboldened by the unfolding scandal, over two dozen girls came forward with similar allegations.

The students minced no words. They also said that after complaints instead of addressing the issue, the authorities concerned blamed the students for being ‘vulgar’. By not taking action, the administration damaged the lives of many innocent students. The morally contaminated environment can be gauged from the fact that four bad eggs have emerged from a single elite school campus. The bravery of LGS girls encouraged students of other schools to speak up as well.

Now LGS, LUMS, Benazir University, Nawabshah, IBA Karachi, every place has a story to tell.

Ours is a patriarchal society. Women are vulnerable, and scores of women have faced sexual harassment at workplaces. Those contractual and daily wagers are at risk of being victimized in every context. It is very unfortunate that after breaking various cultural barriers, they reach professional fields, but they are being exploited by sexual manipulators.

The stigma of being sexually harassed cuts deeper than a blade. And, the shame emanating from the episode, sticks in one’s life like a tar, refusing to die away for many years. The society starts looking down upon those victims, creating many problems, in later practical life.

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Those who are sexually harassed have to carry the psychological, physical, and mental baggage for later life. The internationally-recognized devastating and long-term impact of sexual harassment on emotional, psychological and sometimes physical well-being include anger, fear, shame, guilt, betrayal, violence, powerlessness, and loss of control.

Though the LGS has dismissed the staff members for alleged harassment their dismissal is no punishment; the accused should have been taken to task in accordance with the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (2016). To move forward and combat this moral cancer, a number of measures can be taken. Those found guilty should be banned from teaching, as they will get hired by some other institution.

All educational institutions must have a comprehensive sexual harassment policy for their teaching and non-teaching staff as well as students. A proper orientation program on the subject being highlighted may be imparted to teachers, administration and students at the start of every academic year.

Also, the students must be apprised of methods applied by predators to target the vulnerable students.

Besides, in order to curb this crime being discussed, institutions should put in place inbuilt filters to catch, and subsequently flush out the immoral educators. Such a watchdog comprising people of integrity and honesty should be entrusted to be vigilant within the four walls of institutions.

There should be no soft corner for harassers and sexual predators in our educational institutions and when a complaint is made, urgent action must be taken.

The whole edifice of education stands on three Cs: confidence, competence and character building. Sexual harassment erodes confidence, and kills cognitive capacity. Since harassers are polluting the prophetic profession, they must be punished to save the education system.

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Naya Daur