A Lahore-based university has banned male and female students sitting together as a ‘couple’, believing that it goes against ‘cultural and religious’ norms. However, students are allowed to sit in a group of three or more.

A notice publicized on May 4th, at the University of Sargodha, Lahore (UoSL) campus disallows ‘inappropriate interaction between male and female students’, voicing the complaints made by parents to push for the ban.

The notice stated: “In view of our cultural and religious bindings and complaints by parents, inappropriate interaction between male and female students is hereby strictly prohibited within the university premises… Students are not allowed to sit anywhere in the premises as a couple. However, they may sit in groups of three or more.”

The UoSL Discipline Committee Secretary Dr Arbab Khalid Cheema authorized the ban.

In addition to the ban of students of opposite sex sitting together as a ‘couple’, the sub-campus has formed a dress code for students of both sexes that has been showcased on its website.

The dress code notice reads, “The clothing worn will be clean, neat, modest and reflective of the culture in which we are operating.”

According to the restriction notice, the reason for it is not enforce any rigidity or oppression but is in line with the spirit of discipline, which is the visionary lifestyle of the UoSL campus.

The dress code for male students permits dress shirts, T-shirts with only collars, formal pants, jeans, shoes, joggers and shalwar-kameez (may be worn on Friday or by special permission).

Female students are allowed to wear shalwar-kameez, scarf/dupatta, pants/trousers with long shirts, modest make-up and jewelry.

The code bans “sleeveless, offensive or obscene shirts, patchy, tattered, baggy or shabby looking jeans and chappals”.

Contravening the dress code ban would lead to punishments of fines and not being allowed to attend classes.

Societal Divide

Hashim bin Rashid, a lecturer at Beaconhouse National University talked on the issue of moral policing at universities and campuses, stating that gender segregation reflected a division in the Pakistani society.

“On the one hand,” he said, “we see the conservative mindset and on the other there is adaptation of modern education system.”

He was of the opinion that the society had grown to accept modern education and economic system but refused to accept the values that comes with it.

Rashid: “Moral policing in universities show frustration and can only be countered if students are allowed to interact with each other normally,”

The University of Swat, in the last month, also prohibited male and female students from “sitting or walking together while on campus premises or outside the campus”.

Refusing to abide by the rules will lead receiving a fine of up to Rs5,000. However, the ban was later withdrawn.

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