Punjab governor issues mechanism for universities to tackle sexual harassment incidents
By News Desk
August 25, 2023 08:05 PM
Punjab governor Baligh-ur-Rehman Friday issued a proper mechanism for universities to deal with sexual harassment incidents in future.
According to the 24News HD TV channel, the governor issued a directive to all the universities in Punjab and emphasize that universities that protection against sexual harassment is important because it threatens freedom and conduciveness of the environment at such institutions of higher learning.
The governor said in the directive to the universities that sexual harassment incidents shall not be tolerated under any circumstance.
In the context of recent happenings of incidents of sexual harassment at universities, as reported in print, electronic and social media, the Governor as a Chancellor and Patron advised the universities, both in the public and private sectors, to take the following measures to put place an effective mechanism to prevent, report and respond to the occurrences of sexual harassment:
- Notify Inquiry Committees in terms of respective provisions of the Higher Education Commission Policy on Protection against Sexual Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 and the Harassment in Higher Education Institutions. In case the Inquiry Committees have already been notified, take steps to make them more proactive and effective in the disposal of cases of sexual harassment referred to them.
- Refer all the complaints of sexual harassment to the Inquiry Committees with the direction to dispose them of within a period of 45 days or as defined under the Act or the Policy ibid.
- Notify a senior female faculty member as 'Focal Person' to be the single point of contact to whom all formal reports of sexual harassment are made. The Focal Person must be situated outside of the management structure of the university and report directly to the Vice Chancellor and Rector of the university. The Focal Person should be trained to respond to trauma and must have access to a space where confidentiality and privacy can be respected to handle the complaints. The contact details of the Focal Person be made publically available to all the students.
- Take measures to ensure strict implementation of provisions of the Protection Against Harassment a Women at Workplace Act. 2010 and the Higher Education Commission Policy on Protection against Sexual Harassment in Higher Education Institutions. The policy should be embedded in the code of conduct for the students, teachers and employees of the university.
- The policy and procedure for reporting complaints must be publically and readily available and translated into Urdu and, if possible, to the native languages of the students and employees of the university.
- The policy should be constantly socialized to act as a reminder and to inform new personnel and students. This can include providing highly visible information on the university's homepage; in students' common areas; through newsletters; through course outlines; on mobile phone apps and on social media.
- Develop a ‘Code of Conduct' for students, teachers and employees of the university, clearly defining types of unacceptable behaviours and indicating how different acts will be treated.
- Establish a fair, accessible and transparent 'Complaint Mechanism' that ensures confidentiality, and security while reporting an incident of sexual harassment. Students and staff should be offered multiple ways to make a formal report of sexual harassment; Safety apps and online reporting may be some of the methods of making a formal complaint.
- Take steps to ‘educate and raise awareness' among students and staff at all levels on how to recognize, prevent and respond to sexual harassment.
- Put in place a ‘robust Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning mechanism to regularly monitor the status of complaints of sexual harassment and suggest measures on the basis of lessons learnt to improve the overall performance of the system.
Reporter: Rao Dilshad