Senate body urges legislation to prevent harassment in schools

Updated 23 Jul 2020

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Panel criticises absence of attempts to promote anti-harassment laws on the school campus. — Hussain Afzal/File
Panel criticises absence of attempts to promote anti-harassment laws on the school campus. — Hussain Afzal/File

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Wednesday urged the formation of an active parent teacher association (PTA) along with legislation to prevent harassment and bullying in schools.

The observations came after the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights criticised the lack of a PTA in the Lahore Grammar School (LGS) and the absence of attempts to promote anti-harassment laws on the school campus.

Committee members said that LGS must ensure that the anti-harassment law is displayed on the school’s walls in its 75 campuses so students feel protected.

The committee also discussed in detail the Torture and Custodial Death Prevention and Punishment Bill 2020, introduced by Senator Sherry Rehman, as well as the abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan.

The meeting commenced with a briefing from the LGS principal and the Punjab education secretary. The Punjab police also gave its opinion on the case.

Senior education department officials told the committee that a new law is being formulated which will encompass all the concerns, and its draft will be presented to the committee soon.

Committee chair Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that the functions of the PTA should be added to this law, and added that an on-campus office is needed to deal with issues of harassment and bullying.

He directed the school to submit a compliance report within two weeks and said the director must be present for the next meeting.

The committee also condemned the disappearance of Mr Jan, saying that responsibility for the act must be fixed. The inspector general of police Islamabad was directed to thoroughly investigate the matter and submit a report and a copy of the charge-sheet to the committee in two weeks.

The absence of the interior secretary, who was expected to brief senators on the issuance of a notification pursuant to the cabinet’s decision to declare domestic child labour ‘hazardous employment’, was also criticised.

Senator Khokhar said a privileged motion would be moved against the interior secretary.

The committee recommended some amendments to Senator Rehman’s bill and said that it will be passed in the next committee meeting after the amendments have been incorporated.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2020