2nd July, 2020
LAHORE- SEPLAA Foundation Executive Director, highlighted the issue of ‘Sexual Harassment’ at a private school in the social media group ‘Seplaa Hub Women’ on 28.6.2020 when the matter was shared and circulated on social media. Seplaa Hub Women is a partner of the SEPLAA Foundation and is a group of over 2000 women that comprises of lawyers, educationists, doctors and business women.
Since this is a grave issue that concerns the safety of all our children, on 30.6.2020, Mrs. Ammara Malik therefore announced on social media, on her personal page and group, with a combined following of more than 7000 people, that she had decided to initiate a writ petition before the honourable Lahore High Court under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. The news of her initiative was also covered in the ‘The News’ dated 1st July , 2020 (https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/680366-online-harassment-cases-pop-up-amid-campuses-closure) wherein Mr. Murad Raas, was also quoted to have taken notice of the complaints on twitter.
Appreciating that he took notice of the fact that Mrs. Malik had proposed to take legal action and to that effect, Mr. Murad had announced in his press conference dated 2nd July, 2020, that he planned to propose a new legislation to cover the loopholes of child safety in schools, the writ petition was dropped.
Following this, the SEPLAA Foundation through its Executive Director send the following recommendations to the Punjab School Education Department:
“In light of the above, I recommend in brief, the following to be incorporated in a special law to be created specifically for children in schools:
- School managements should be held accountable for any sexual harassment incidents that take place on their school premises or under school-controlled environments (e.g. online school classes), either though fines, cancellation of school registration and/or a custodial penalty.
- Schools should have a clear legal framework provided by the School Education Department on a uniform sexual harassment policy for faculty, administration and management, to be available with the School Education Department and on its website.
- A clear set of other detailed recommendations should be included in the special law for the protection, safety and emotional well being of children in private schools, which should cover such aspects of sexual harassment issues’ awareness such as:
- Training of teachers and staff on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to deal with sexual harassment issues while in a teaching environment.
- Dissemination of sexual harassment policy,
- Ensuring the involvement of parent body in school safety issues under a special committee/ stakeholders’ forum
- And an independent redressal system, the constitution of which must include a representative of the parent body as well.”
We await to see this important piece of legislation surface as soon as possible as per the Minister of Education’s announcement, so that our children’s constitutional rights to life and education, enshrined under Articles 9 and 25-A are ensured.