Nearly a decade after a High Court order, the universities -- both public and private -- are yet to form committees to investigate sexual harassment complaints at the institutions.
There are allegations that most of the committees that have been formed are inactive. While many prolong their investigations, others are reluctant to take actions against the perpetrators.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) wrote to the universities last month seeking information about the activities of the committees. But most of the universities did not respond within the UGC-stipulated time.
The High Court in 2009 ordered formation of such committees at every organization and educational institutions to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and recommend measures.
According to the court’s directives, the committees would have at least five members, mostly women, and if possible, be headed by women.
UGC sources say such bodies have been formed at 30 out of the country’s 37 public universities and at 49 out of 94 private universities.
With its March 11 letter, the UGC also sent forms to collect information. The universities were instructed to submit the forms within 10 working days. Until April 15, only three public and 20 private universities have responded.
The public universities are -- Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University, University of Barisal, and Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology.
The private universities include University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Brac University, Gono Bishwabidyalay, and Bangladesh Army University of Science and Technology.
UGC’s Senior Assistant Secretary Mauli Azad said some of the universities had the committees but they were inactive while many did not even have them.
“Most of them (the universities) did not send the information [the UGC had sought] within the stipulated time. Some have sought more time,” Mauli said. “This shows their reluctance.”
The committees at the University of Barisal and CUET did not receive any allegation while Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University is yet to finish the investigation of a complaint.
Among private universities, the Notre Dame University received an allegation. It has finished the investigation and filed a report. The Gono Bishwabidyalay has suspended two teachers after looking into allegations of sexual harassments. The other universities did not receive any complaint.
Mauli Azad said sexual harassments tendency was on the rise.
“We need to conduct a lot of awareness programs to improve the situation. The UGC has already started working on it. The stakeholders should do more. Awareness must be raised,” Mauli added.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com