When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. Those losing their character cannot be and should not be entrusted with responsibility of character building of our new generation. Such elements should be blacklisted and kicked out of corridors of teaching profession.
By Nazeer Ahmed Arijo
Sexual harassment at campuses continues to be a prevalent problem in Pakistani educational institutions and elsewhere. The harassment includes unwanted touching, offensive and sexual comments, demanding sexual favors in return of better academic grade or professional promotion ,and other verbal or physical harassment of sexual nature at the workplace or learning environment like the schools, colleges and universities etc.
It is beggars belief that educators becoming serpents – and snakes are spoiling lives of those given in their care for academic activity. There is a trap after trap for a female in the state of Pakistan. A teacher chases a female student for physical pleasure at school, a professor pursues her for the same at the university, and senior management, fueled by flames of flesh, run after her in professional fields.
The recent transformation of the Lahore Grammar School’s two teachers and two support staff into harassers, has sent a chill down the spine of the country, and as a result condemnation and the curse upon those involved, is pouring in from across the sections of the society.
When the teachers-turned harassers crossed all limits in chasing their female students through digital devices, sending pornographic pictures and offensive messages, the victims were pushed to narrow gate either suffering silently or breaking silence and exposing the corrupt group. Some LGS girls chose to speak up thus going public against the moral corruption. Emboldened by the unfolding sexual scandal exposed by bold students, over two dozen girls came forward, sharing erotic images and toxic texts, sent by the accomplices. Thus what was seen to be a case of only some girls morphed into #Me Too Movement is shaking our collective conscience.
The detail is troubling.
Those victims of sexual harassment have revealed that even some students were subjected to inappropriate behavior like the physical touching and ogling at the female students’ bodies within the class by the tainted teachers since long. One victim, to our utter dismay, went on to say that one of harassers had offered wine to girls on an international trip, ultimately trapping one student for making the day .The victims minced no words having said that they conveyed the concern to the school administrative authorities concerned, but they turned a blind eye to it. The harassed disclosed that instead of addressing the issue, the authorities concerned while adding salt to the wounds to the victims, counter-blamed the students being vulgar and intent upon damaging the reputation of those allegedly involved. The moral corruption was thus pushed under the carpet by the very authorities, which were duty bound to protect pupils from physical and moral harm. It implies a collision course indeed.
Let me be blunt here: Will the guilty allow their sisters and daughters to be sexually harassed? Or will the school authorities concerned remain silent when their own daughters are subjected to the same sexual scandal? They have damaged the lives of many innocent students. The morally contaminated environment can be gauged from the fact that four bad eggs have emerged from a single elite school campus .The bravery of LGS girls and subsequent #Me Too movement encouraged the LUMS Lahore Students who took to the Twitter dropping a bombshell on the university management over its unwillingness to take an urgent action against the professor-the harasser. The LUM Sians shared traumatic stories of sexual harassment at the hands of a faculty member, an American-Iranian Professor Dr. Hayder Al-Mohammad, who was assigned the “Anthropology of Body” course. Imagine a university professor stooping so low and saying to a certain female student “I can’t imagine what parts of body you will be rubbing tonight”. Despite this, when the students had drawn the attention of the competent university authorities about the issue being highlighted, the concerned authorities, apparently under reputation damage considerations, asked the victims to give the accused professor a chance .This infuriated the students and after having taken the support of fellow students, they registered a written complaint. Meanwhile, the professor disappeared in mid semester. Earlier, in the same university, one professor was accused of sexual harassment. His colleagues are said to have joined the hands to help him get a clean chit from the internal committee constituted to investigate the alleged academic. The victim approached the court for the relief. After the court intervention, the accused was dismissed from LUMS Lahore.
Also, after having received repeated complaints of sexual harassment, the Quaid-e Azam University, Islamabad, had terminated service of an assistant professor at the department of Plant Sciences. Not long ago, a final year student of the English department at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Nawabshah had held a press conference, accusing a faculty member of sexual harassment.
Surprisingly, a smearing campaign was launched by the University authorities before investigating the alleged abuser. In 2018, the provincial ombudsman ruled in favor of Shifa Imtiaz after having found a lecturer at Karachi University, Petroleum and Technology Department, guilty of subjecting his student to sexual harassment. In the same year, an IBA faculty member named Dr. Tiago Ferreira Lopes from Portugal was accused to have sexually harassed his students. Some students revealed how the alleged professor would hint on giving students better grades in exchange for offering sexual favors in return.
This symbolizes that this moral cancer is pervasive in our lower and highest seats of learning and training of life; and it is thriving thanks to a catalogue of connivance, inaction and esprit de corps-group support cultivated on campuses. Internationally speaking some south Asian countries like the China, India and Bangladesh have seen surge in cases of sexual harassment on campuses. According to Guangzhou Gender and Beijing Impact Law Firm jointly released a report called ”Sexual Harassment on Chines College Campuses” after an online survey held over a month-period, more than 70 percent of university students from all 34 provinces in China interviewed for the survey said they had encountered sexual harassment. Reportedly, in Bangladesh, a shocking 76 percent of female students in higher education institutions report having faced harassment on post-secondary campuses. According to information made available by the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development, there has been 50 percent increase in reported cases on sexual harassment from various higher education institutions in the 2016-17 academic-years, as compared to 2015-16. When it comes to subjecting students to unwanted physical advances by educators, the Russian and Sri Lankan universities are falling in the same line. Ours is a patriarchal society. Women are vulnerable, and scores of women have faced sexual harassment at workplaces. Those contractual and daily wagers are at risk of being victimized in every context. It is very unfortunate that the daughters of Eve, after breaking various cultural barriers, reach professional fields, but they are being exploited by sexual manipulators in various sectors. Can we dig deeper into personality traits that explain why sexual harassment happens?
1) Men who believe they are superior.
2) Woman is seen as an object of satisfying baser biological urges.
3) Men who misunderstands and misreads signals from women /girl; a smile given, or a frank talk is misconstrued as the nod for the romantic entanglement- flirtation.
4) Neanderthals who don’t know (or don’t care if this behavior is offensive.
Those sexually harassed will have to bear the psychological, physical and mental baggage for later life.
Internationally recognized devastating and long-term impact of sexual harassment on emotional, psychological and sometimes physical well-being are as under.
Emotional effects: Anger, Fear, Humiliation, Shame, Guilt, Betrayal, Violence, Powerlessness and loss of control.
Mental health effects: Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, difficulty in concentrating, loss of motivation, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts,
Physical effects: Increased Stress levels, headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, dietary disturbances.
The stigma of being sexually harassed cuts deeper than a blade. And, the shame emanating from the episode, sticks in one’s life like a tar, refusing to die away for many years.
The society starts looking down upon those victims, creating many problems, in later practical life.
Those tainted characters have tarnished the image of both teaching profession and the teaching community.
The Lahore Grammar School faculty members involved in sexual harassment have been dismissed on the heels of Me Too movement, launched by the girls. Their dismissal is no punishment; the accused should have been taken to task in accordance to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (2016).
To move forward and combat this moral cancer called sexual harassment, a number of measures can be taken. Those found guilty should not only be life-time banned in educational organizations, but also disqualified for any sector where female students are enrolled for academic activity or any training, or female workforce is working. Fired by one institution, and hired by another organization won’t help curb the crime in question as they will be doing the same there, because old habits die hard. Besides, all educational institutions must have comprehensive sexual harassment policy for their respective teaching and non-teaching staff as well as students. A proper orientation program on the subject may be imparted to teachers, administration and students at the start of every academic year along with consequences. Also, the students must be apprised of multidimensional methods applied by unscrupulous educators to catch the vulnerable. Besides, in order to curb this crime, institutions should put in place inbuilt filters to catch, and subsequently flush out the immoral .Such a watchdog comprising people of integrity and honesty be entrusted to be vigilant within the four walls of institutions. Unscrupulous characters can be easily caught on camera, the human eye, through gestures and inclinations given.
There should be no soft corner for unscrupulous characters called harassers and sexual predators in our educational organizations and other sectors; and a policy of acting with urgency should be prioritized in the face of such immoral activity happening within the walls of institutions. The whole edifice of education stands on three Cs: confidence, competence and character building. Sexual harassment erodes confidence, and kills cognitive capacity. Since harassers are polluting prophetic profession and shattering trust of both parents as well as students, so those with corrupts should be handcuffed, prosecuted and punished as per the demand of both national and international laws of sexual harassment.
According to Billy Graham, when wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. Those losing their character cannot be and should not be entrusted with responsibility of character building of our new generation. Such elements should be blacklisted and kicked out of corridors of teaching profession.
Nazeer Ahmed Arijo is an educationist and a freelance contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]