The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) might be known as one of the most prestigious academic institutions in Pakistan, but the university’s sexist policies such as fining women for smoking on campus whereas no such repercussions exist for the men as well as unfair curfew timings and punishments have gained widespread criticism.
Recently, according to social media reports, a student was sexually assaulted on premises and as seen by the quick statements released, the management has tried to do a quick cover-up of the situation by denying any such tragedy took place and taking a harsh, negligent stance on the safety of students. The statement is as follows,
The very first sentence gives the reader an idea about what the rest of the statement must be like. It shows a blatant disregard for the society we live in; where women are killed for honor if their “virtue” is infringed upon, where rapists walk free especially if they belong to the same family, where women are blamed for the actions of their rapists as if they asked to be violated. In this culture, men are laughed at and told to have enjoyed being raped, their emotions discarded and voices silenced just as much as the women’s. If the victim has the courage to try and speak up, they are given a shut-up call the likes of one delivered by the NUST administration.
The statement goes on to identify the life-ruining allegations and their impacts but forget a few key things. Firstly, does a victim of sexual assault have anything to gain by falsely accusing someone of assault? It is widely known that they don’t. Instead, regardless of the truth behind their allegation, they face a modern witch-hunt, where they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
The character of the accuser is dragged through every nook and cranny of the online world, where every Tom, Dick, and Harry formulate opinions about the accuser, as was seen by the infamous Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar case, wherein the female actor faced all the criticism and even received daily death threats, but the male actor faced almost no consequences.
Another famous example of men getting away with whatever they please is of the current American President, Donald Trump, who has a long list of accusations of sexual assault, misconduct and inappropriate behavior. A book, All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator provides accounts from about 100 interviews of unwanted behavior. Even the statement, “Grab them by the pussy,” had no effect on his elections, or recently, his impeachment, which goes to show the different treatment received by accusers and harassers.
Apparently, the management believes a false allegation to be a more “horrendous and shameless” act than the act of rape itself, a crime that cannot be justified under any circumstances. This statement is a pinnacle of victim-blaming behavior in the rape culture students all over Pakistan are trying to avoid. Students are demonized whereas predators roam free if only to protect the dignity and prestige of an academic institute.
Moreover, many students have accused NUST of neglect, such as these two comments on their Facebook page, which suggest that they failed to have a thorough investigation;
Not only this but reportedly, students are being threatened with the cancellation of their degrees if they try to, “pay heed to this deceitful accusation.”
This is exactly why the Student Solidarity March was important. One of the demands of the march was to ensure campuses were a safe space for learning and any committees that were formed to investigate instances of sexual harassment should involve student representatives. However, the march was taken to be a threat against the state, as seen by the arrest of several notable figures such as Dr. Ammar Ali Jan and the father of the late Mashal Khan, Iqbal Lala.
While the state made the flying red flags and banners an issue, we forgot why the need for student mobilization and activism in the country persists.