July 24, 2023 - Comments Off on DRF strongly condemns the recent incident of sexual exploitation and harassment at the Islamia University Bahawalpur
25 July 2023:
Digital Rights Foundation strongly condemns the recent sexual exploitation and incidents of harassment that took place at Islamia University Bahawalpur (IUB), where the university’s Chief Security Officer was arrested by local police when explicit pictures and videos of women around campus, staff members and students alike, were retrieved from his cellular devices.
This distressing turn of events marks the third high-profile case in many years. In 2019, a similar incident like this took place at the University of Balochistan, Quetta, and later at the King Edward Medical University Lahore. Incidents like these are indicative of an alarming pattern of misconduct emerging, where at least two of the known cases implicate the chief of security as the primary accused.
DRF calls upon the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Senate/Parliament Human Rights Committee once again. The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) did take a Suo Moto of the incident and we are encouraged by the NCHR taking up this matter and hope there is effective follow-through in the future.
In the aftermath of the ongoing situation, systemic issues at educational institutions which have already been highlighted previously by DRF have been brought to light. The ongoing instances have reminded us of past complaints regarding geographical constraints that make reporting difficult especially for female victims; the prospect of traveling long distances to register their cases of harassment often deters them entirely. Even in this particular case, if students from IUB were to register a case under the Prevention of Electronics Crimes Act (PECA) with the FIA, they would have had to travel to Multan which would not only result in a significant financial cost for them but would also be a burden on victims already under distress. Efforts to ensure that no survivor is kept from seeking justice must be prioritized by making the reporting process more accessible and efficient. Addressing the concerns and hesitations of survivors is important and only in doing so can we achieve a supportive environment that empowers victims to come forward with their stories.
Investigative authorities must be required by law to provide sensitized and timely relief to victims. Meanwhile, where such laws are in place, lack of effective implementation and monitoring become the problem. The senate human rights committee in 2019 acts as a prime example here, since it took up jurisdiction of harassment cases recorded on CCTV cameras on campus. Yet, safe spaces for female students have not been created on campus.
Simultaneously, the privacy and confidentiality of the victims must be safeguarded at all costs. Instead, statements by those in the position to protect the women and investigate these incidents choose to question the victims themselves, displaying an inability to take responsibility and a complete disregard for the clear imbalance of power.
This discovery at the IUB serves as an alarming awakening that harassment continues to prevail in professional and/or academic arenas. Relevant personnel have failed to strictly enforce the rules set out by the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Act 2022 and, therefore, have been responsible for the current menace of sexual exploitation in our educational institutions and society at large. It is imperative to mention that the perpetrators at IUB and UOB both were Chief of Security and CCTV was installed for ‘safety’ which rather led to more insecurity and a violation of privacy for women on campus. If stringent and strict action isn’t taken in cases like these it would lead to parents’ reluctance to send their daughters for higher education in Pakistan where female literacy is already an issue.
If you or someone you know needs help reporting cyber harassment, please get in touch with us at the Cyber Harassment Helpline operating from Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm on 0800-39393. You can also email us at [email protected] or contact us on our socials.
https://www.dawn.com/news/1765829/islamia-university-bahawalpur-chief-held-with-drugs-videos-of-students-officials https://www.dawn.com/news/1578777 https://thecurrent.pk/employee-at-king-edward-medical-university-caught-making-video-of-female-student-in-washroom/ https://twitter.com/nchrofficial/status/1683393720014733312?s=46&t=9DwfaN-p2fv3bkDoJMFkZA