A university in Lahore has formally barred male and female students from sitting together as a ‘couple’, terming it against ‘cultural and religious’ norms. They are, however, allowed to sit in a group of three or more.
A notice issued by the University of Sargodha, Lahore (UoSL) campus on May 4 prohibits ‘inappropriate interaction between male and female students’, citing complaints by parents for the move.
“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,” the notice states. “Students are not allowed to sit anywhere in the premises as a couple. However, they may sit in groups of three or more.”
The notification was signed by UoSL Discipline Committee Secretary Dr Arbab Khalid Cheema.
Apart from barring students of the opposite sex from sitting together, the sub-campus has also enforced a dress code for both male and female students, which has been displayed on its website.
“The clothing worn will be clean, neat, modest and reflective of the culture in which we are operating,” the dress code notice reads.
The restriction, it states, is not to impose any rigidity or regimentation but it is in accordance with the spirit of discipline, which is the cardinal aspect of lifestyle at the UoSL campus.
The code for male students allows dress shirts, T-shirts (only with collars), formal pants, jeans, shoes, joggers and shalwar-kameez (may be worn on Friday or by special permission).
The female students are allowed to wear shalwar-kameez, scarf/dupatta, pants/trousers with long shirts, modest make-up and jewellery. “Sleeveless, offensive or obscene shirts, patchy, tattered, baggy or shabby looking jeans and chappals are not allowed,” the code reads.
The students who violate the dress code could be “fined and will not be allowed to attend classes”.
Several attempts to contact the UoSL registrar and chief executive were not responded.
Commenting on moral policing at universities and campuses, Hashim bin Rashid, a lecturer at Beaconhouse National University, said the issue of gender segregation showed a divide 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 said the society had accepted modern education and economic system but was not accepting the values that came with it. “Moral policing in universities show frustration and can only be countered if students are allowed to interact with each other normally,” Rashid believed.
Last month, the University of Swat had also prohibited male and female students for “sitting or walking together while on campus premises or outside the campus”. The erring students were to be fined up to Rs5,000. The notification was later withdrawn.