Committee didn't even investigate allegations of sexual harassment

Khulna University
File photo

A female teacher of the mass communication and journalism department at Khulna University had brought about allegations of sexual harassment and physical and mental torture against one of her colleagues.

After 10 months, the sexual harassment prevention committee has said that they did not even take the allegation into consideration as the incident occurred outside the campus. Besides, they did not find any proof of physical and mental torture.

The accused teacher was temporarily suspended after the allegations surfaced in August last year. Based on the recommendations of the probe body, the dismissal order of that teacher has been withdrawn at a meeting of the university syndicate held on 8 June. A letter has been issued from the registrar’s office in this regard on Monday last.

Meanwhile, it has sparked a backlash from the teachers of university on the campus. They say in accordance with the sexual harassment and assault prevention policy-2008, at higher educational institutions if any allegation cannot be investigated or not under investigation, the people concerned should be informed within seven working days. But this was not followed in this case. Even, the instruction to submit the probe report within a maximum of 60 working days was not followed either.

The aggrieved teacher told Prothom Alo, “The committee had started the investigation taking the allegations into consideration. I have been interrogated thrice by the committee. They had also interrogated all the teachers of our discipline. However, around 10 months after the allegations were made, they are saying that this matter is beyond their jurisdiction. They say that they haven’t found any proof of physical and mental torture.”

She further said, “The committee was provided with the text messages sent by the accused teacher at different times as proof of torture. The accused teacher apologised to me after the incident over the phone. I even provided the call record of that to the committee. Despite that, they are saying that they haven’t found any proof.”

Speaking regarding this, professor Taslima Khatun, head of the committee, said, “If anything happens outside the campus, it is beyond our jurisdiction. We have nothing to do in this regard.”

However, she could not provide any satisfactory answer when asked why they took 10 months to inform her about the matter.

According to the victim, she was called to a rented house on the night of 26 January last year and was sexually abused.

Fawzia Moslem, president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, expressed surprise over the matter. She told Prothom Alo that it was right that the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of the committee. However, they have the authority to investigate the allegations and identify the culprits and make recommendations in this regard.

When asked what could be the reason behind such a recommendation from the committee, she said those on the committee may not be sensitive to women.

According to university sources, there were seven members in the sexual harassment prevention committee. Shariful Hasan, director of student affairs, is among them.

Acting university registrar, Khan Golam Quddus, told Prothom Alo that now the aggrieved teacher can move to court in this regard.