Aurat March, PSC berate LUMS for mishandling Samia Altaf’s harassment case

Dr Samia Altaf's contract did not get an extension after she filed a harassment complaint against male colleague

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The Lahore chapter of the Aurat March and Progressive Students’ Collective have lambasted Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) for not doing right for a female professor who claimed she was harassed by a male colleague in January.

In a joint statement on Twitter, the activist groups detailed that professor Samia Altaf’s contract as the Director of Health and Safety at LUMS was not extended after June 2021, even though she was still pursuing a harassment case against her colleague.

The statement took LUMS to task for being a seemingly progressive institution that branded itself as having a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment, but Altaf’s situation proved otherwise.

The statement addressed Altaf’s complaint and said that public documents revealed the extent of her harrowing experience and the university’s response demonstrated a dearth of appropriate procedures to process harassment claims on campus.

The women’s and student’s rights organizations also addressed gender-based harassment as a pervasive issue in universities country-wide and cited another example in which a female student complained of harassment at the Government Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College a few weeks ago.

Biased inquiry committees and lack of transparency were a few impediments to justice in universities, read the statement.

As an effective possible solution, the collectives said that legislation like the 2010 Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace that was interpreted stringently, should be amended.

The statement said that people who suffered harassment or discrimination based on their gender should be able to appeal to the law the same way that sexual harassment victims were able to.

Dr Altaf brought forth her complaints internally at LUMS against her alleged harasser in January and March this year and according to the details cited by the media, both times the administration’s response was deemed insufficient.

Altaf’s lawyer Jannat Ali Kalyar also revealed on Twitter that a restraining order was taken against LUMS that displayed her client’s name and accolades on the institution’s website, despite terminated employment.

Kalyar added that Altaf had filed a Rs67 million civil lawsuit against the university for employment loss in connection to the harassment case.