The recent emerging #metoo movement has taken a drastic turn in our society. Although, the initiative is very appreciable but any false allegations can lead the situation to a very serious turn. Mr. Afzal Mehmood, Lecturer in English at M.A.O College committed suicide. The news may not be very unique for most of the people, because of the increased suicidal ratio at an alarming rate. The reasons for the suicides have now become a normal thing, sometimes because of depression, poverty and sometimes due to other societal pressures.
But this heart wrenching story has turned the minds of the people to an unbelievable scenario. He did not commit suicide just for a reason that a female student of M.A.O College filed a complaint against him for sexually harassing her, but because after he being proved innocent on the completion of case inquiry by the committee, the College Administration did not release any notification in his favor to declare his innocence in this case.
He left a written note for his female colleague Dr. Aliya Rehman, who was looking into the whole case. He mentioned that he will be considered a bad character man, unless the university administration acquitted him of the charges. He also requested for the case to be investigated again or to send him a written notification of his innocence, because his personal life has been disturbed due to these false allegations. The important thing to be added here is that, the allegations against the lecturer were proved false by the College’s anti-harassment committee and the final report was already submitted to the College’s Principle Dr. Farhan on July 13, 2019.
If to look deeply into the situation, all this happened is due to the case being handled carelessly by the College’s anti-harassment committee. Firstly, it was not kept confidential and the lecturer got suspended, which almost destroyed his reputation in front of his students. Secondly, no action was taken against the girl, when her accusations were proved falsified. The Lecturer, waited for almost three long months, for the committee to release notification of his innocence. No one could understand the trauma from which he was suffering, which led him to such an intense situation that he could find no other way but to commit suicide to prove himself innocent, that no one can bring him back now.
Pakistan’s anti-harassment law also has set punishments for the accusers, if in case the allegations proved to be wrong. Its purpose is to prevent law from being misused. In Pakistan, where in one-way women harassment is at its peak and due to societal or cultural pressure, they lack the courage to speak for their rights, in the same place there are some women who take advantage of their gender and try to misuse of the anti-harassment law. In recent years, most of the harassment cases which were brought to the court by women as an accuser, were later proved false.
To look around, the only thing to tackle such cases, is to handle them with extreme confidentiality and to look over to both sides of the picture. The final decision should only me made, when the committee come to the conclusion that they have gathered enough facts and satisfactory responses from both the sides. Such sensitive cases, if handled carefully, will never let any other innocent to commit suicide.
Muhammad Usman Awan is a Blogger and Social Entrepreneur who founded first Anti Harassment Awareness Campaign “Stop Harassment Now”. The Purpose of this campaign is to empower and educate our Girls and Working Women against Harassment.