Karachi: Sexual and cyber harassment on-campus and off-campus is as damaging to women as physical violence and abuse experienced, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said to students and faculty members of SZABIST, the country’s leading technological university as she called for their commitment to speak out for sexual harassment at campuses to end.
This is a new driver of potential harmful gender inequality as more and more universities and students gain internet access. Sexual harassment is intolerable, and we are witnessing that students are providing inspirational leadership in combatting it. Now is the time for stronger action and we have to start from education, said the Executive Director.
To be disconnected from technology in the 21st century, is like having your freedom disrupted: your right to learn, your right to work, your right to meet people, your freedom of speech. We need to constantly make the point about the advantages of education and technology for women.
Ms. Nasreen Haque, Vice President of SZABIST, Karachi Campus, said,We need to join hands and exercise the power of solidarity to promote and coordinate efforts to advance the full realization of women’s rights, to tell them how valuable and precious they are; that they are to be treated with dignity and respect; that they should disregard anyone who demeans or devalues them. On behalf of SZABIST, I propose a Consortium of Chairs of anti-sexual harassment committees of universities of Karachi to share their experiences.
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 picks up in Pakistan, more cases are being reported, making offenders accountable, it is also exposing the prevalence of violence from celebrities to work places including government offices, and to educational institutions. #HearMeToo aims to support all those whose voices are still not yet being heard.
Pakistan’s anti-sexual harassment laws recognizes that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination against women and a human rights violation, that occurs in many arenas of life, including schools and universities.
In any University, sexual assault and sexual harassment is unacceptable. The safety and wellbeing of students and staff who disclose or report sexual assault or sexual harassment needs to be the priority of Universities and at the centre of the University response. Giving the vote of thanks, Country Representative UN Women Pakistan Jamshed Kazi said survivors of harassment and violence have much more to lose than gain. We need to have robust complaint handling mechanisms at universities. And if we start redressing such complaints in an effective manner, students would be confident to reach out to sexual harassment committees at universities with complaints.