Just 3 Colleges Have Full-Fledged Sexual Harassment Complaint PanelsKrittika Sharma & Mohammad Ibrar TNN
New Delhi: The victim of sexual harassment in Daulat Ram College had to approach police directly because she was not confident of her case being properly handled by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). She wouldn’t be the only one with little institutional support. There are regular allegations of sexual harassment in Delhi University, the latest cases being at Daulat Ram and Bharati colleges, but the institution’s redress mechanism is in a shambles, with ICCs in a majority of the colleges not even fully constituted.
The University Grants Commission made the complaint panels mandatory in 2016. A couple of years since, DU, one of the largest public-funded central universities with over seven lakh students from across the country and abroad, cannot assure women students of prevention and redress to gender harassment. As happened in the Daulat Ram case, students have no place to go to have their complaints heard.
When TOI approached the university ICC for information on cases of sexual harassment on the campus, the authorities refused to answer any queries, arguing that meeting them required an appointment.
According to a former student, a classmate in her North Campus college once approached the principal with a complaint against her teacher. “The principal brought the complainant and the professor face to face to resolve the matter. The professor was eventually removed, but the principal also pulled up the girl for raking the college’s name into disrepute,” rued the alumnus.
Devangana Kalita of student collective Pinjra Tod said, “Except for Hindu, Miranda House and Ramjas colleges, no other institution has conducted elections to choose three student members of the ICC, thereby violating UGC guidelines.” The collective, in a letter to the university on Wednesday, pointed out that the recent incidents have “brought to light the abysmal lack and nonexistence of functional mechanisms to address sexual harassment across colleges and departments in the university”.
Kalita also said that lack of awareness is one of the biggest concerns why students don’t approach the authorities in cases of harassment. Raya Sarkar, a law student who compiled a list of men in academia accused of sexual harassment by their students, was firm that if a student did not feel it productive to approach a complaint committee, it was up to the colleges to institute reforms.
“Poorly constructed ICC platforms not sensitised to the needs of traumatised harassment victims, conflict of interest between members of the enquiry panel and the accused, coupled with the fear of alienation from university staff and fellow students are reasons why students choose to not approach the panels,” Sarkar told TOI. She added that victims frequently choose to stay silent or go to the cops rather than endure the insensitive scrutiny and unwarranted blaming by the ICCs.
This happened at Daulat Ram College, where the student who accused a teacher of harassment avoided reaching out to the principal or teachers, but filed a complaint with police. “Before me, five other girls suffered the same ordeal at the hands of that professor,” the student claimed. “But their pleas were not heard by the college authorities. My father suggested, therefore, that we should go directly to the police.”
According to professor Chirashree Dasgupta, former member of JNU’s Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), students would not normally approach a body if they weren’t confident about getting justice from it. “Such bodies have to be democratic, not be comprised of nominated members. This to assure complainants that there won’t be any intrusion of the administration into the investigations of complaints. Our system was democratic, so many cases, even against teachers, were reported,” said Dasgupta. GSCASH has since been overtaken by the mandatory ICC.
CALL FOR ACTION
Our college has an extremely helpful environment for students to approach authorities about their grievance. Perhaps it’s not the same with other DU colleges and that’s why girls are hesitant in approaching authorities
IP COLLEGE FOR WOMEN
The ICC in Miranda helps students get the kind of redress they need. Sometimes, we approach the police on their behalf.
We even counsel students in cases of harassment from outside college
It is tough for students who face harassment to approach authorities as they may not be confident about them. This is a major concern. All colleges must have an ICC
LADY SHRI RAM
Even though Miranda has a complaint cell, the internal complaints committee (ICC) is created through a more democratic process.
Every college should have one ICC