For Safer Campuses- Protect Students Against Sexual Harassment

For Safer Campuses- Protect Students Against Sexual Harassment

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‘The Students' Outpost’ is a collective of students studying in various colleges in Bangalore. The main objective of this association is to promote the welfare and rights of students in campuses. We also create awareness among students by organizing seminars, panel discussions, meetings etc.

We do regret to inform that sexual harassment of students has become a burning issue in academic spaces. The victims of sexual harassment have no remedy available. If at all a victim gathers courage to complain, he/she is very often threatened with dire consequences and forced to withdraw the complaint. It is a known fact that the internal assessment is used as a tool to discourage complaints from victims of sexual harassment.

The Students' Outpost conducted a sample survey of several colleges in Bangalore on this issue.The significant findings of the survey show that though there is a notification by the UGC dated 2/5/2016 titled the “University Grants Commission (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2015”, the said notification is not complied with by many institutions.

Many institutions have not set up the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). In some institutions, the committee remains only on paper and it is not functional.

As per [Rule 3(h)] the information on the ICC is to be permanently displayed at conspicuous places and notice boards including contact details of the members of the committee and the complaint procedures etc. However, this rule is not implemented, and as a result, most students have no idea about where the Committee is located.

Gender sensitisation workshops and training programmes as specified in the SAKSHAM (Measures for Ensuring the Safety of Women and programmes for Gender Sensitization in Campuses) report mentioned under [Rule 3(c)], are supposed to be regularly organised by colleges for not just students but also staff, faculty and functionaries. Yet this is rarely done.

[Rule 3(b)] that provision against sexual harassment should be notified publicly and ensure their wide dissemination is not followed.

There is a violation of [Rule 4(c)] that the student representative to the ICC has to be elected through transparent democratic procedure.

While we realize that the issue concerning sexual harassment cannot be solved in a purely legal manner, legal intervention is the first step to be taken to ensure justice to the victims. Counseling and other relief measures will have to be followed. At a time when an increasing number of individuals are speaking up about sexual harassment, it is vital that universities and other educational spaces acknowledge and support survivors. Setting up of ICC in every institution is a start.

The constitution and functioning of committees should be in conformity with the above mentioned notification, particularly to encourage active and elected student representation in the committee.

Groups may be especially vulnerable due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is recommended, as per the Saksham report, that deprecatory comments, conduct or any such behavior towards these groups and usage of classroom or public forum in the University to denigrate, discriminate or create a hostile environment for these groups, be classified as sexual harassment. A positive interpersonal climate must be fostered on campuses.

We, The Students’ Outpost, urge the above addressed relevant bodies to intervene on this matter and initiate appropriate action so that the victims of sexual harassment can approach proper redressal mechanism in colleges.