Sexual harassment, despite the sensitivity of the issue, is a problem the government seems to be having a trouble understanding. Despite the widespread attention given to it by the “me too” movement and several debates around the topic, the government’s understanding is limited to the victim-blaming mentality. A recent example of this was the order given by the office of the District Education Officer (DEO) to the heads of all middle, high, and higher secondary schools to prompt school girls to cover themselves via abaya, veil, chaddar while attending school to avoid unethical incidents. This is a clear reflection of how society engages in victim-blaming and the policymakers, in turn, pressurise them to take steps to protect themselves, rather than tightening the security situation and penalising those who commit such indecent acts.

As soon as the notice was made public, there was a huge outcry on mainstream and social media, as this is a step in the wrong direction. In order to get rid of unethical incidents, it is important to create a safety net for the victims. Instilling the idea that harassment occurs as a result of indecent dressing shows a lack of understanding of the problem and can create a safety hazard for the female population. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government officials also spent a great deal of time defending the decision to the public and media by implying that the decision was taken to ensure female enrolment in schools, to satisfy safety concerns of the parents, and to uphold the tenets of faith.

It is safe to say that most of the female population already observe these tenets and to make them a compulsion is taking away their own rights to decide. At the same time, if the problem is occurring regardless of the observation of purdah, then the authorities need to dig deeper and come up with solutions that do not put the responsibility on one gender. It is the right decision by the government to withdraw the order. It should serve as an incident that they can reflect on and take ownership of the performance of their workers and advisers who are coming up with regressive solutions to problems that will only slow down the progress of the population. Female students need support rather than further clampdowns on their mobility and existence. The solutions provided should be in their favour and suggestions that they can easily adopt.