Naila Rind: Locking women up will not help secure them from sexual harassment, Pakistan

We cannot, as a nation, claim progress till our women feel safe everywhere at any time. The life of a woman in a man’s world was never easy, but nothing can be worse than not doing anything to change that. No matter how many steps we manage to take forward, we have just as many people pushing us back. By writing this, I wish to bring to the reader’s attention the way we are handling the Naila Rind case – a student of the University of Sindh, Jamshoro, who committed suicide after being constantly blackmailed and harassed.

Our country does not have harassment policies in educational institutions. The only policy that exists in our educational institutions (and elsewhere) is that of locking women up – this comes from the concept of hiding women from public spaces in Pakistan. Because, obviously, if there were no women there would be no harassment, and our educational institutions would be safer, un-distracted places to learn and get an education. And obviously, it’s more important for a boy to have a distraction-free education than for a girl to get her basic education.

Most universities do not have sexual complaints committee cells, and those that do have them only note their existence on paper and the committees fail to carry out any of their duties in a meaningful manner. The members of the committees are often appointed by the university staff who, going by the tradition of slut-shaming, do not offer any meaningful assistance – especially if the perpetrators are fellow colleagues or seniors. This kind of behaviour further contributes to an unsafe environment for women. The failure of these committees is evident from the fact that no universities in the country conducted gender sensitisation sessions or even felt the need to make their students aware of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, and the rights provided therein.

Shumaila Hussain

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