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December 7, 2018

UN under-secretary-general lauds students’ role against sexual harassment


December 7, 2018

Sexual and cyber harassment, both on campus and off campus, are as injurious to female students as physical abuse and violence.

This was stated by United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka while she was speaking on Wednesday night to a gathering of students and faculty members of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist), stressing the need for speaking out to end sexual harassment at campuses. “Sexual harassment is intolerable, and we are witnessing that students are providing inspirational leadership in combatting it,” the UN under-secretary-general said.

She added that with the internet, offenders had access to more tools to harass. "This is a new driver of potential harmful gender inequality as more and more universities and students gain internet access,” she remarked.

Mlambo-Ngcuka called for using modern technology to help bring about positive change. "To be disconnected from technology in the 21st century is like having your freedom disrupted [including] your right to learn, your right to work, your right to meet people, your freedom of speech," she said, adding that we should make a point of using education and technology for advantage of women.

Nasreen Haque, vice president of Szabist Karachi Campus, called for unity to promote women rights. Coordinated efforts are required to fully realise women rights, she said, adding that the women should be told how valuable and precious they are and that they are to be treated with dignity and respect, and they should disregard anyone who demeans or devalues them.

Country Representative of UN Women in Pakistan Jamshed Kazi said survivors of harassment and violence had much more to lose than what they could gain. We need to have robust complaint handling mechanisms at universities, he asserted, adding that "if we start redressing such complaints in an effective manner, students would be confident to reach out to sexual harassment committees at universities ".

This year, the UN’s theme for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’. As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement have gained momentum in Pakistan, more cases of sexual harassment are being reported and offenders made accountable.

The movements have also helped people realise the fact that sexual harassment is prevalent in society with offenders belonging to all the strata of society, including teachers at educational institutes and those who enjoy a celebrity status. Now #HearMeToo aims to support all those victims of sexual harassment whose voices have yet to be heard.

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