Pakistan has seen a spike in the violence, murder, harassment and physical assault cases in the recent time. The security institutions and law and order firms have failed to provide a secure environment to Pakistani citizens specially women and children. It appears like these cases are only rising with the passage of time and will not cease to exist any time soon. A student of MSc Zoology named Kainat of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) was found dead two days after she went missing.

According to the details given by police, Kainat was a student of MSc Zoology at UAF and had went missing two days ago. She used to work at a call center in the evening time to support her family financially and that is where she went missing. She was reported missing two days ago but unfortunately her body was found dead last night by the police. The news of this incident has created outrage among the university students and her fellows. The students of UAF took to twitter to express their anger and demanded justice for Kainat.

The RPO Faisalabad confirmed that the suspected murderer Talal has been found and arrested by the police. He assured the public that the murderer will be treated according to law and justice will be well served to Kainat’s family. Some people have expressed their dismay at being Pakistanis and Muslims yet failing to comply with the basics of humanity in the society. People also pointed towards the discriminations of security provision to the rich and the poor class in Pakistan.

Female students in Pakistan have always been subjected to insecurity and assaults which consequently lead to their murders or suicides. The famous bridge incident of 2011 outside the Kinnaird College will never be forgotten by people. A 23 years old Shams Alam had stopped the 19 years old Samar Wasti on the bridge outside her college upon which she had called her father. However, before anyone could come and rescue her, she was shot dead because of five fires pulled towards her and then he went onto to shoot himself dead as well.

The boy had been in contact with the girl from a Cathedral school where they studied together and he had been harassing her for months to marry him. He even went onto ask her father who rejected him clearly. This incident had depicted how vulnerable the female students have become in Pakistan and that they are not safe from their harassers even in broad daylight and public places. No one had stood up to rescue her when she was shot dead even though it was quite a busy time of the day.

A similar incident involving a student from the same Kinnaird College occurred in 2016. A fourth year student of the Kinnaird College had been found dead in mysterious circumstances in a four star hotel on The Mall. The 25-year-old Rabia Nasreen, daughter of Ghulam Nabi of Batapur Colony, was found dead with a bullet in her head in a bathroom of the hotel with a pistol lying near her body. The deceased was the only sister of four brothers. She had served as captain of her college cricket team, and was enrolled in coaching courses.

This incident had also raised a lot of questions about student security in Pakistan. No one knew why the girl had taken such a grave step as suicide. Whether it was academic pressure or some mysterious harasser who had scared her to the extent of taking her own life. Whatever might have been the reason, this incident had only added up to the list of an insecure and stable environment for female students in Pakistan.

Whether it happens in the premier educational institutes of Lahore, the shabby buildings of government-run schools in Southern Punjab, or in a rundown madrassah in interior Sindh, sexual harassment and assault in academic institutions is always downplayed. The harassment and violence is not only limited to the invisible or less reputable academic institutions.

A bunch of female students belonging to one of the premier academic institutions of Lahore, LGS, recently stormed social media with the videos, pictures, and messages they received from their perpetrators: teachers and staff. Many accused the instructors of inappropriate touching, groping, coercing, and threatening. The harassers warned the students of a reduction in marks in case of non-compliance. All this happened right under the nose of the administration which kept sitting on the complaints until everything emerged on the social media accounts of the students.

When it comes to the role of educational institutions themselves regarding violence and assault, they often believe they can prevent themselves against legal action and a tarnished reputation by denying and ignoring incidents of sexual harassment and assault on their premises. Usually, the investigations in such incidents are delayed, responsibilities are denied, facts are distorted, victims are disparaged and eventually their right to an equal education is also devalued and refused.

Educational institutions, government institutions, as well as security institutions claim to take sexual harassment and violence very seriously, yet most of them neither have their anti-harassment policies well defined nor have their harassment inquiry committees been working effectively.  Ignorance, fear of accountability, concerns about the public opinion, and a bad press is what makes these institutions turn a blind eye to their utmost obligation which is to provide a safe environment to students specifically females.

The government and academic institutions will have to work together closely and cooperatively in order to avoid incidents such as murders, sexual violence and suicides among female students. In Pakistan, the government helpline to receive complaints about sexual harassment can be accessed. Sexual violence and harassment inside and outside of the educational institutions is a pressing civil rights issue: depriving many of equal and safe access to education. Educational institutes should strive to nip the evil in the bud; rather than denying the problem until it can no longer be hidden and bursts out on social media.

By Ali Asad

The author is doing M. Phil in Public Policy and Governance. He is working  as a freelancer. Previously worked with HubPages and Washington Post.

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