Little did the viewers of Pakistani drama ‘Meray Humnasheen’ realize that the series highlights one of the most important yet least talked about topics of harassment in educational institutes.
During her convocation ceremony (episode 34), Hiba Bukhari who plays Khajista gives a speech in which she talks about how students who come from villages or small areas into big and reputed institutes are a victim of harassment.
These medals, this ceremony, this applaud, it is not an appreciation but a slap. A slap on all those sick minds that are affected by territorial discrimination. That stupid mind thinks that children from underdeveloped areas have low IQs and are criminals, and can never be good students.
Respected guests, and dear students, when children like us come to these big institutions from small areas, we are targeted with territorial and educational discrimination. Today, the sound of these claps seems hollow to me. Because before this, it has been made to insult me, defame me, and put cheap blame on me.
I don’t need these medals, but it is my humble request the protection of the specified seats in my area is possible (seats that are reserved for students from such areas are protected) so that well-dressed children of the upper class don’t attack us. I don’t want to raise the curtains and degrade anyone that did what they did with me, but consider it my plea, my appeal, or a request, for God’s sake, clean educational institutes from discrimination so that in the future if any child goes with medals from here, then he or she doesn’t leave with a wounded soul like mine.
Let some star, some light, a lamp of hope light up in our eyes. Don’t snatch it from us.
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Wardah Noor, a student council batch representative from Lahore University of Management Sciences, shared that it is difficult for students to report cases and go through a long process while still being “mentally sound”. Her statement is just one out of hundreds of thousands.
“The issue here is not the lack of harassment committees in institutions but societal structures that make reporting of such incidents difficult,” Noor said. “We do take credit for introducing laws 10 years ago but that alone doesn’t guarantee support to survivors. Bringing evidence, following the entire procedure is strenuous … you have to provide therapy to survivors too.”
“There is a need to educate people so that they know what counts as sexual harassment,” she affirmed while pointing out practices of victim-blaming still pervasive in society.
Advocate and legal consultant Khadija Ali shared that civil law and criminal law exist in Pakistan for sexual harassment with the latter being Section 509 in the Pakistan Penal Code which is applicable in public places and wherever harassment takes place. However, students are mainly unaware or have little to no information about their rights.
Explaining the two laws she said, civil law is the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, of 2010 which is applicable in organizations. “Under this law, every organization has to have an inquiry committee to register sexual harassment complaints by students or employees,” she explained. “Organisations have to designate competent authority to mull penalties against the accused … moreover, we have ombudspersons in all four provinces where victims can file their complaints.”
Ali said students can now also file complaints under the act and the employee-employer relationship is not a mandatory requirement, however, it’s important to understand that it is civil law. “You can set a precedent for an entire university [by reporting and taking a stand] against harassment.” Says Maliha Husain, the executive director of Mehergarh: A Centre For Learning.
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It is high time to raise our voices against all forms of discrimination, age, gender, territorial, or otherwise.
Have you ever faced discrimination or harassment in your educational institute? Share your thoughts and experience with us in the comments below.
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