Women students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences staged a protest outside the Office of Student Affairs on Monday over a sexist Facebook group.
More than 200 students, mostly women, sat outside the office to register their protest and demand that the campus become a safer place for all.
The Facebook group, of mostly men, was sharing content that targeted women at the university with derogatory language, images, commentary and obscenity. The group had six hundred members. It has since been taken down by the university.
“The memes [on the group] sexualised and objectified women students in the name of dark humour,” said one of the students organizing the protest. “The online forum, through its humour, encouraged both, directly and indirectly, acts of violence against women.”
The students have demanded that the university management take action against the admins of the Facebook group.
“Our goal is not to just punish the perpetrators but to channel efforts towards bringing people into dialogue, creating awareness regarding cyberbullying and rehabilitating the offenders,” the student organizer said.
The protesters said that they want the campus to become “more united” and “safe for all.”
LUMS is an institution that cherishes diversity among its student body, the varsity said in a statement on its website on Tuesday. More than 5,000 students study at the university.
A group of students approached the dean of student affairs regarding a social media page where some students belonging to LUMS were sharing offensive, sexist memes, it said.
The students and the dean agreed that this was an unfortunate episode and hoped it would open doors for gender sensitivity on campus, the statement added.
The controversy has, however, elicited a wide range of reactions from the student body.
Some men students have, for example, apologised for being “silent spectators” on the Facebook group. Others have spoken up about being “cornered,” which has caused them mental stress.
The campus has become such an unsafe and toxic place of late, said another student.
Alumni have been speaking against the Facebook group. “I am happy that the women are demanding action,” said an alumnus. “I don’t know what will happen but if half the people say they aren’t comfortable then the admin will have to do anything about it.”
This is not the first time the campus has become embroiled in controversy on women’s rights. There was strong opposition when the university started its first feminist club, FemSoc. And later, when a harassment case was reported against one of the law professors five years ago a similar reaction erupted. Following this case, LUMS devised its sexual harassment policy, however it is not clear if it covers online behaviours. Pakistan’s cybercrime law and the HEC’s harassment policy, however, do.
“I hope the administration takes some concrete actions,” said an ex-student, “unlike, how they have reacted to certain situations in the past.”
The men who were running the group couldn’t be reached for comment. The office of student affairs did not respond to comment either.