Sindh University to implement HEC's sexual harassment policy

HYDERABAD:20 November:Rattled by the recent allegations of sexual harassment leveled against some of its staff members, Sindh University (SU) has finally adopted the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) guidelines to curb this practice. According to a press release issued on Sunday, a special meeting of SU’s syndicate approved setting up a harassment complaint cell under the commission’s policy guidelines against sexual harassment in institutions of higher learning.

The syndicate authorised SU Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Fateh Muhammad Burfat to constitute a 10-member hearing panel for the cell. The commission’s policy has acknowledged the occurrence of harassment in classrooms, offices and research laboratories at the varsity.

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According to the HEC’s guidelines, the complaint cell is supposed to be headed by a full-time trained professional, designated as a harassment monitoring officer. It has also been advised that the head should preferably be a female, considering the fact that a majority of complaints are reported by female students.

The policy has categorised the acts of asking a female student to visit an office after office hours, to meet outside university premises and sexual jokes or written or spoken references as sexual harassment. Intimidating a student about damaging their reputation, commenting on an individual’s physique, staring, inquiries about a student’s sexual experiences and acts connoting sexuality, among other acts, also amount to harassment.

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Last month, the apex court’s human rights cell directed SU to submit details of the harassment complaints received and addressed by the varsity. Simultaneously, an unsigned and apparently unauthentic letter written by three students against as many teachers, accusing the latter of sexual advances, also circulated on social media, putting the institute in the spotlight for such incidents.

In the wake of the harassment controversy, Sindh University Teachers Association President Dr Azhar Ali Shah demanded implementation of the HEC’s policy. He pointed out that the absence of an effective cell is depriving genuine complainants of justice and damaging the reputation of the university and its faculty because of unsubstantiated allegations.The news.