A large number of civil society and women’s rights activists on Sunday took part in a protest to express their concerns over the constant harassment of female students at Sindh’s universities. They criticised the provincial government for its failure to stop incidents of violence against women.
Sindh Women Development Minister Syeda Shehla Raza, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Senator Khalida Ateeb and MNA Kishwer Zehra also attended the protest to show solidarity with the victims of gender-based violence at the province’s academic institutions.
The speakers at the protest said civil society and women’s rights groups view sexual harassment at educational institutions with great concern, adding that the recent case of Parveen Rind, a nursing house officer at the Peoples Medical University Nawabshah, is reminiscent of the atrocities committed against Noshin Shah, Nimrata Kumari and Naila Rind.
They said the literacy rate is already low in the country, but it is even lower for girls, adding that after rising harassment cases, the civil society is afraid that girls who have access to education can also be forced to stay at home.
“Because of it, the country will lag far behind in the race for development,” civil society groups said in a joint statement. The speakers demanded that the provincial government find those responsible for sexual harassment at higher educational institutions and punish them severely.
They also condemned the horrible violation of human rights that occurred recently in the Naukot area of District Mirpurkhas, where a woman and a minor girl were abducted, stripped and paraded naked, and then raped.
They said girls from various minority groups, particularly the Hindu community, are being kidnapped and forcibly converted. “It is the need of the hour to create a conducive and safe environment for girls, especially at our educational institutions, and in society as a whole.”
They also demanded that the government fully implement the sexual harassment protection act, spread awareness about it and form a high-powered inquiry committee at every institution to investigate such cases.
Sheema Kermani of the Tehreek-e-Niswan, Aurat Foundation’s Mahnaz Rahman, National Commission for Human Rights’ Anis Haroon, Sindh Commission on the Status of Women’s Nuzhat Shirin, Pastor Ghazala Shafiq, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research’s Karamat Ali, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Saeed Baloch and minorities’ rights activist Dr Birma Jesrani were prominent among the participants.