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I talked to a few students from various colleges about the measures against sexual harassment on campus. Here’s what they said.
Sexual harassment on campus is an important issue that has been coming out a lot recently. It burst into the open with the BHU incident, which caused a lot of uproar and unrest among the students of the institution. Then there was the list made by student and activist Raya Sarkar that showed the frustration of young women with due process, and harassment that comes from the very professors who are supposed to be guides and mentors.
Universities are supposed to safe spaces for learning and growing, hence it is extremely necessary for them to live up to that expectation. According to UGC guidelines, based on the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act 2013, it is necessary for universities to have an Internal Complaints Committee which deals with sexual harassment grievances on the college premises.
I thought it was a good time to talk to a few undergraduate and postgraduate students regarding sexual harassment on campus. I asked them if they were ever sexually harassed in the institution, were they aware of the existence of such a body and do they know what steps they are supposed to take if they ever face any situation of this kind.
Here is what I heard from them.
“There is a committee in the college. It is an internal complaints committee which also works against sexual harassment and I happen to be a part of it, as a gender champ. The committee has students and teachers as well. I have never faced any sexual harassment in the college but if that happens I’ll approach the convener and the TIC. I guess they’ll tell me the procedure ahead.” – 3rd year Literature student, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi.
“Yes, there is a committee in my college for handling the cases regarding sexual harrassement. It’s called ‘Internal Complaints Committee’. Fortunately, I have not faced sexual harrassement in my college. I am not sure about the clear cut procedure to be followed in case of sexual harassment, but I do know the fact that I need to contact the people of the committee board and report to them about what all happened so that they can look into the matter and take certain steps in the regard. If I ever had to face anything like this,I would report to the Internal Complaints Committee of my college. Also, I would report the incident to the principal as well and I’ll make sure that the incident is not ignored.” – 2nd year BA program student, Kamla Nehru College, University of Delhi.
“There is a sexual harassment committee in my college. No, I have never faced anything of that kind there. I guess the first step would be to inform the responsible authorities before breaking that person’s face. I know some policemen since I am a law student. I have their number in my phone. Would definitely call them up and narrate the whole situation. And will also try some self defence techniques that I learned in my college through a Self Defence Workshop by Delhi Police.” – 2nd year Law student, Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies.
“Ambedkar does have a committee for this. It’s called Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment. Never faced anything in college. In general I am aware of the steps to be taken – one can file a report, complain to higher authorities, self defence and all that jazz. In college this committee had a special orientation programme to tell us about what to do in such a case and also to introduce the campus representatives and the faculty and non faculty members of the committee. If anything happens in college I always have the option to go to these representatives and ask them to document this and take action but it really depends on what happens in real life. I always thought I’d pepper spray people but there’s been inappropriate butt grabs and pushing in crowded buses and I couldn’t really make out who did it so I just moved away the first time and the second time I just got off the bus so ♀” – 1st year PG student, Ambedkar University
“JNU had a Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) when I joined this year, which has since been replaced by an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). We were informed about GSCASH as part of our orientation. Faculty members, seniors and even student representatives of various parties work constantly to keep us aware of our rights. I have not faced any kind of sexual harassment in the slightest form, but I am aware that there are appointed faculty members and elected students that I can appraoch if required. JNU has an environment of dialogue about important issues such as these” – 1st year PG student, Jawarharlal Nehru University.
It is great to see the amount of awareness that universities are trying to create in the students, which is essential, considering the gravity of the situation. It is to be hoped that these committees will take up cases with utmost integrity, given the trust students seem to have in them.
Sexual harassment is a serious offence that ought to be taken more seriously to ensure an overall better environment for and growth of the students. Our country desperately needs aware citizens to make it a better place, and it begins when we make it a better place for them!
Image via Unsplash