Sexual Harassment: The Current Conjuncture
This is a parcha which was distributed at the event. It covers some basic differences between the new sexual harassment policy of DU and the old Ordnance. We will share a full length report of the event very soon.
1. Ordinance XV-D came into effect after years of hard work and struggle by students, teachers and the administration. The ordinance is very thorough (based on three years of collective work by GSG and FASH, the consulting of hundreds of policies from across the world and attention and representation given to all members of the University from faculty to karamcharis) and many other universities have taken inputs from it to frame their own policies.
2. Our policy has been in place for almost a decade. Not only was it very wrong on the part of the University to remove it without consulting any stakeholders, it sweeps away a decade of hard work and experience with the sexual harassment policy in the University.
3. This has been done despite the clear provision in the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act which states that this Act is in addition to and not in derogation of any law in force. Ordinance XV-D was very much a law and hence, protected by the Act itself.
4. Ordinance XV-D was a gender neutral policy which recognized the fact that even men can be sexually harassed, whereas the new policy recognizes only women as the victims of sexual harassment. In Delhi University there have been multiple cases where male students were harassed by their teachers and authorities in power. For Example, the BN Ray case of Ramjas College where the Vice Principal sexually harassed generations of male students.
5. The new policy does not recognise the harassment of sexual minorities unlike Ordinance XV-D which recognized harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and was also a gender neutral policy. Under the new policy LGBT(Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual,Transgender) students cannot file a complaint of sexual harassment. Considering the fact that sexual minorities are the frequent targets of abuse, discrimination and violence, it is extremely crucial for DU to safeguard and protect their rights. Moreover, DU has this year introduced reservation for trans people in post graduate courses and hence it is all the more important for it to protect them from sexual harassment.
6. Under the new policy the committees will be formed by the Heads, whereas under Ordinance XV-D committees were formed by a democratic process and also had student and karamchari representatives in it. The new policy has given too much power in the hands of theHeads which they can and will misuse, especially when there is any charge of sexual harassment against them. Last year, we saw two cases in DU where principals sexually harassed their junior officers in Ambedkar College and ARSD college and used their power to get away with it.
7. The new policy has a clause on false complaints which was not there in the old ordnance. The clause on false complaints can be extremely detrimental to women who want to file a complaint of sexual harassment.
8. The jurisdiction of the new law is also not very clear. The earlier law covered not just the university area but also the areas around the university like Hudson Lane, Hostels, PGs, etc.
9. Substitution of Ordinance XV-D has also left male students below the age of 18 years unprotected against sexual harassment within the University system contrary to the provisions of the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act 2012. This Act provides for compulsory reporting of any sexual offence, including sexual harassment against boys and girls below the age of 18 years. In the absence of inclusion of men within the DU Policy pursuant to the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, the University does not have any mechanism to find cases of sexual harassment of boys below the age of 18 years.
10. All this is symptomatic of the general trivialization of sexual harassment and the lack of seriousness with which sexual harassment is treated in the University. The volume of cases of sexual harassment across the University only increases and the administration thrives on the dismissal and denial of it. Students, karamcharis, teachers are dissuaded from ever complaining because of the dismal record of justice being offered to victims and this latest steamrollering of the extant policy is only the final nail in the coffin of gender justice in Delhi University.