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Online harassment cases pop up amid campuses closure

July 01, 2020

LAHORE: Amid lockdown and closure of educational institutions because of Covid-19 and subsequent a sharp surge in online activities more and more stories of harassment at many institutions, including LGS and LUMS, to name a few, are popping up on social media.

This not just highlights the trauma of harassment students especially female students have been facing over the years but also exposes indifferent attitude of management of such institutes over complaints by the students.

In one such instance, Lahore Grammar School (LGS) 1A1 had to terminate employment of four of its employees following the school received widespread criticism on social media after some female victims came forward narrating stories of harassment at the hands of their teachers and other staff.

Reportedly, recently a female student of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) had also come forward in a private Facebook group with “complaints of systemic predatory behaviour within the student body”.

In response to such reports Nida Kirmani, a faculty member at the varsity, in a social media post recently 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 pertinent to mention that in 2014, the federal ombudsperson had directed the university to remove one of its faculty members over charges of harassing a female student.

In the wake of recent cases of harassment, advocate Mrs Ammara Farooq Malik who is also Founder of Seeds of Education, Policy, Legal Awareness & Advocacy (SEPLAA) has 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 while talking to The News.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Human Rights (MOHR) Shireen Mazari and other government officials have also taken notice of the harassment issues highlighted by students. “Have taken note of serious harassment allegations of girls and women at educational institutions - most recently at two premier private institutions in Lahore.”

MOHR helpline 1099 is available for complaints and help. Our regional offices have been alerted on this issue,” tweeted the minister.

Similarly, Punjab School Education Minister Dr Murad Raas also announced that he would himself deal with the (harassment) case in Lahore Grammar School 1A1. District Education Authority (DEA), Lahore has formed a three-member team to dig out the factual position vis-à-vis harassment cases at LGS 1A1.

No official from LGS was available for comments. However, a PR agency which looks after media communication of LUMS communicated that the university has denied any case of harassment.