How to Stop Continued Sexual Harassments?
By Javed iqbal
The female committee head to probe sexual harassment charges in MAO College has herself alleged the Principal of harassing her.
In an application to the Secretary HED, Dr Aliyah Rehman has requested the authority to conduct an inquiry against Farhan Ibadat Yar.
It is a general perception that only women become the victim of harassment and men can never. If a woman accuses some man of harassment, then her statement is always considered as factual and true.
But what’s about the cases when females falsely accuse someone of harassment?
The harassment cases usually happen in the public sector as employees’ personal interests often match initially and mismatch later. The intimacy oftentimes leads to allegations later.
The law regarding sexual harassment in government offices, factories and educational institutions was, arguably, a right move to protect rights of the vulnerable womenfolk from the harassment of their male colleagues but subsequent situation showed that it is often misused to gain certain benefits.
The core idea behind this avant-garde scheme was that it will ensure protection of rights of the women staff from any abuse and on the other hand, the men will not think of any exploitation.
A review of this law shows that some women have accused their male colleagues of sexually harassing them in order to achieve their goals. But they have either failed to prove the allegations or have denied to provide any solid evidence in support of their claims.
Let’s look at a few examples in society where the lives of the accused were not only made hell but some were also forced to take the utmost task of committing suicide.
When Dr Mujahid Kamran was the Vice-Chancellor of University of the Punjab, Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz, the director and head of the Institute of Communication Studies, was accused of harassment by a junior teacher of his department. After the allegation proved false, Dr Naz was removed from the post. He later became horribly ill and departed soon but nothing was proved. It is alleged that all the drama was staged to remove Dr Naz.
PU former VC Dr Zafar Moeen Nasir said “I remember, a girl came to me to complain against a teacher but when our team investigated, the issue was something else and the girl wanted to blackmail that teacher for getting some academic benefits.”
Similarly, a senior federal government officer in Punjab was also accused of harassment when he was about to cancel contracts of some lady officials on poor performance. He was accused of harassment on a section of the media and was removed from the post but all these charges were later found to be false, while the accused succeeded in their motives. The successor renewed the contracts.
In another case, a female communication department official of Punjab Education Foundation got transferred her assistant director to another department on trumped up charges to fail the communication department’s male head with whom she was at logger heads. The PEF management didn’t bother to hold any formal enquiry to eke out facts.
The former TEVTA head Saeed Alvi was also accused of such allegations.
Former information minister and columnist Ahmad Waqas Riaz said we all know men in almost all cases try to take advantage of women who are their subordinate, dependent or as a weak gender. Men mostly use their influence to get away.
The allegations came to the forefront of newspapers when an MAO college English teacher was accused of harassing a student. An inquiry was conducted by a senior female professor on the orders of the principal. He was declared innocent in the enquiry as there was no proof but findings were deliberately kept secret to tease the hapless teacher and formal letter of exoneration was never issued by the college despite repeated requests of the teacher. This led to a suicide note that late Muhammad Afzal wrote before committing suicide. The treacherous report should be forwarded to my family. Let my guilt be recorded as nothing and a false allegation.
The sad part of this story is that the higher education department continued to ignore the tragic matter till its projection in the media and now both the principal and enquiry officer are holding each other responsible. The departmental enquiry is started but it can’t give justice to the victim.
When this correspondent talked to different scholars they were of the opinion,
Inappropriate attire by both sides at workplace like skin fittings, jeans etc gives a wrong signal to the other side about the response. Without imposing strict dress code, social media limits, addressing semester system lacunas, and above all, installation of CCTV cameras and formulating regulations, it would be hard to escape misuse of this law. The PTA should strictly ban pornography on internet and social media to avoid Kasur sex scam and Balochistan University adult videos that forced the VC to quit office.
Likewise, having unnecessary Whatsapp chats with colleagues, enjoying pick and drop by a male officer and late-night dinners have become increasingly acceptable. However, if the relations get strained such women may feel that it a norm to move application against a person with whom she has had friendly relations.
The need is to review Sexual Harassment at Workplace law to avoid frivolous applications. The purview of the law should be extended from workplaces to private and public places. Moreover, such provisions should be inserted to safeguard any character assassination in the media before the outcome of the case. Moreover, in harassment cases, the burden of proof should be on the complainant not accused.