Online Harassment Cases On the Rise Amid Campus Closure

Over the past few days we have witnessed a surge in stories of harassment in many educational institutions across Pakistan, LGS and LUMS to name a few.

These incidents have exposed the indifferent attitude of management of these institutions over complaints by the students. The trauma that the students especially female students have been facing over the past few years were not adhered to at first, but as many students came forward with their stories and the school received widespread criticism on social media, Lahore Grammar School (LGS) 1A1 finally terminated four of its employees who were named as the harassers.

Recently, a female student of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) also came forward in a private Facebook group with “complaints of systemic predatory behavior within the student body”.

Nida Kirmani, a faculty member at the university responded to the reports in a social media post. She wrote ”Students sharing posts about harassment should know that you have the support of many of the profs (professors). We are really concerned and are trying to listen and think through ways of making the campus safer for everyone. A lot are working quietly in the background just as you are.”

It is important to mention that back in 2014, the federal ombudsperson had directed the university to remove one of its faculty members over charges of harassing a female student.

In light of the recent harassment cases, founder of Seeds of Education, Policy, Legal Awareness & Advocacy (SEPLAA) advocate Mrs Ammara Farooq Malik, decided to initiate a legal action in a court of law to protect young students and help to change the system with regards to school safety and codes for misconduct under Public Interest Litigation. She has also requested parents, teachers and students who wish to contact her for any information or suggestions in the given situation.

“As a concerned parent and member of society, it was extremely painful to see how the testimonies of young students came out regarding harassment cases in Lahore. I decided to initiate a public interest litigation case to highlight loopholes in our system. I will be filing the case in a few days,” said advocate Mrs Ammara Farooq Malik.

The harassment cases are being taken seriously for the first time in the last few years, Federal Minister of Human Rights (MOHR) Shireen Mazari has also taken notice of these incidents. Shireen Mazari through her own twitter account and from the account of Ministry of Human Rights wrote “Ministry of Human Rights has taken note of serious allegations of harassment at education institutions in Pakistan. Assistance is available through our helpline 1099 for survivors of harassment to make complaints. We take abuse of children seriously &ensure action against abusers”.

Meanwhile, Education Minister of Punjab, Murad Raas also took notice of the harassment cases and said that he will take personally deal with the case in Lahore Grammar School 1A1.

District Education Authority (DEA), Lahore has also taken action, as they formed a three-member team to dig out the factual position vis-à-vis harassment cases at LGS 1A1.

There have been further reports of harassment cases in many other institutions across Pakistan. Only time will tell if serious action is taken by the authorities regarding these cases.