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October 18, 2019

Harassment issues


October 18, 2019

A scandal has broken out at Balochistan University where students say members of the staff including senior members of the administration were using hidden cameras to spy on students, and possibly use the footage for purposes of blackmail. The cameras had allegedly been installed in bathrooms, in the smoking area and other zones. These cameras were used along with regular CCTV cameras to monitor moral activities, check on political actions and harass female students in particular. Students have staged protests demanding the removal of the vice chancellor, who denies he knew about the cameras. The HRCP meanwhile has supported the students and said it will stand with them against any harassment. It is of course likely that the cameras at the university had been present for months or even years. It is not known precisely how the blackmail was carried out. The FIA is now investigating the matter. It is also true that this is not the first case of its kind in the country. While hidden cameras may not have been mentioned before, there have been allegations of sexual harassment at our universities.

The issue is a very real one. As statistics from around the world have shown, women rarely make an allegation of harassment and in our country too the rise in the cases may be party due to the greater willingness to report them. In some cases, social media has helped students do so. Almost all universities also lack any definite mechanism to deal with allegations of harassment. Lecturers and professors of course have control over students through grades and other reports. Students are therefore wary of antagonizing them. In some cases this is also true of parents. Many spend large sums on their children’s education and do not wish negative remarks against them from any person in authority. There is also a serious loophole in the law. There is ambiguity over whether the law on harassment at the workplace covers educational institutions since they are not defined as workplaces for students. This flaw needs to be rectified. Also universities need to make sure there is a system of complaint which is fair to both students and anyone there are allegations against. The procedure for this must be known to all so that students know what to do if such a situation arises.

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