PESHAWAR, May 17: The administration of University of Peshawar (UoP) has suspended a teacher on charges of sexually harassing girl students.

The UoP has also set up a committee to further probe allegations against him. Perhaps, for the first time in the history of UoP, a teacher has been suspended on charges of sexual harassment.

“It can be a tip of the iceberg as fears of girl students, suppressed due to moral and social inhibitions since long, slowly go away and they speak up against senior teachers, involved in sexual harassment,” sources at the university said.

Akhtar Amin, the UoP spokesperson, said that it was moral responsibility of the university administration to take action against the teacher when enough proofs were found against him.

The accused, a teacher of History department, was suspended and a four-member committee with Prof Sara Safdar, dean faculty of social sciences, as its head was formed to probe the issue further, he added.

Another committee was set up at provincial level and tasked to probe the matter when an outspoken MPA of PML-Q, Nighat Orakzai, raised the issue on a point of order in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on April 22.

The MPA had claimed that she received letters from girl students, complaining that some heads of departments were involved in sexual harassment of students.

The UoP administration had first denied having received any written complaint from students in this regard. Ironically, Peshawar University Teachers' Association had also reacted strongly and denied the charges.

Ms Orakzai said that suspension of the teacher proved that the problem existed.

She said that she was receiving threats from such elements after she brought the issue in the limelight but she was determined to continue her struggle against the big fish, which spoiled the pond.

Sitara Ayaz, who is heading the provincial committee probing the allegations of sexual harassment of students at the hands of teachers in UoP, said that it was just a start. The committee would soon come up with a report based on facts, she added.

She said that she herself had received three written complaints, three emails and one SMS, alleging that some senior faculty members of UoP were involved in sexual harassment.

The committee is working closely with UoP administration. It found allegations against three persons more serious and credible, she said.

“The committee would submit its report with the recommendation of legal action as proposed under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act,” said Ms Ayaz, the only woman minister in the provincial cabinet.

Sources in the university said that many complaints were received after the issue was discussed in the provincial assembly.

The girl students, who feared due to social taboos, got courage to speak up against harassment, they said. The university administration for fear of defamation was forced to take action against the teacher, they said.

Sources said that more girls were coming to record statements against some of the senior teachers. “The semester system, adopted by UoP in recent years, has also helped teachers to blackmail their girl students,” sources said.

A teacher, requesting anonymity, said that use of abusive language with girl students, discussing their dresses and cracking jokes at them was something common with the professors.

The teacher added that there should be a code of conduct for faculty members and they must be held accountable for their behaviour.

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