@UGC: Make College Campuses Safer Now With Active & Compliant Anti-Harassment Cells
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‘Let’s try to not make this a big deal.’
‘What can we do? Ignore him.’
That is what college authorities told my friend Mira* when she complained against a batchmate who was following her around the campus, and sending her unwanted and inappropriate text messages. Their 'don’t-care' attitude on such a serious matter made it worse. Their failure to act indirectly encouraged the harasser and he soon began stalking her outside college too.
I saw up-close the trauma my friend suffered with such prolonged harassment, without getting the rightful institutional support.
The injustice and apathy disturbs me. Because the Anti-Harassment Cell/ Internal Complaints Committee (ICCs) at Mira’s college - designed to tackle cases of sexual harassment - could have stopped this ordeal but it didn’t even try.
I want to fix this broken system.
The reason I have faith in ICCs is because I was a member of an active one at my college. I saw first-hand how an active, compliant ICC makes students feel safer.
It can be daunting for a distressed student to approach the police. Students feel more comfortable approaching an active, compliant ICC as they are assured of many services: effective official redressals, curated emotional support, and structured assistance in approaching the police, if required.
I believe that true learning can take place only in safe spaces. Mira was denied that. Her experience proves that the ICC exists only on paper in her college.
And this is clearly happening across college campuses in India because the HRD Ministry reported that sexual harassment on campuses increased by 50% in 2017.
Mira’s college like many others is openly violating the 2016 mandate of the University Grants Commission (UGC). It clearly states that all Indian higher educational institutes must constitute an autonomous Anti-Harassment Cell or the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) which has the responsibility of "creating its campus free from discrimination, harassment, retaliation or sexual assault at all levels".
The system has failed students. It’s time to pull its socks up. UGC needs to implement a strong mechanism to ensure university ICCs are compliant and active.
I have started this petition for every Mira out there.
I am asking UGC to make it mandatory for every university to release a detailed annual compliance report of their ICC.
To assure this report isn’t another misinformed paperwork, we want it to be a comprehensive annual report, containing details of the ICC’s compliance, case statistics, and signed and affirmed by all members of the ICC, including the 3 elected ICC student members that UGC mandates.This will be similar to what the Corporate Affairs Ministry has compulsorily asked of companies to make workplaces sexual harassment-free.
I want every college student to feel safe. Sign this petition to show the UGC that I am not alone in wanting this.
Let’s break the toxic culture of silence around sexual harassment.
Let’s stand in solidarity for those silently suffering and demand #SaferCampusesNOW #TimesUp
(* Name changed to protect identity)
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