Turning a blind eye towards DU students

By Archana Mishra, Feb 11, 2015, DHNS:
Delhi University was never left untouched by cases of sexual harassment. The 2007 B N Ray case of Ramjas College where the vice principal was accused of allegedly sexually harassing male students and the reported charges against principals of Ambedkar College and Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College (ARSD) for sexually harassing their junior officers in 2013, are just some examples that received wide coverage. Departments and colleges too receive complaints each year.

Last year, the University of Delhi scrapped its earlier sexual harassment policy Ordinance XV-D and brought in a new policy on sexual harassment in accordance with the new ‘Women at Workplace Act, 2013’. Professors in law faculty and those in colleges, who once used to be part of the gender sensitisation committee, have upped the ante against the implementation of the Act in the University, which according to them fails to ensure justice to the victims.

“Ordinance XV-D has been in place for almost a decade. Not only it was 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,” says Ved Kumari, professor, Faculty of Law, DU. “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.”

Disapproving the common notion that women are victims of sexual harassment, N A Jacob, assistant professor, Ramjas College, during a interactive session organised by Gender Studies Group highlighted the denial of rights to men with the implementation of this Act. Mentioning about the BN Ray case, Jacob said, “In DU there have been multiple cases where male students were harassed by their teachers and authorities in power.”

Even substitution of ordinance has 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. “In the absence of inclusion of men within 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,” adds Ved Kumari.

More so, with the implementation of the new Act, DU authorities seem to have taken an ‘ignorant approach’ towards students with different sexual orientation. Under the new policy LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) students cannot file a complaint of sexual harassment. “At the time when DU has introduced reservation for transgenders in post graduate courses, it becomes more important for the authorities to protect them,” says Kumari.

What disappoints these DU professors is that under the new policy the committee against any such case will be formed by the head of the department or college without any representative from student or karmachari union. “Under the ordinance the selection of committee members is a democratic process. The Act has given too much power in the hands of the heads which they can and will misuse, especially when there is any charge of sexual harassment against them,” says Kumari.

Moreover, the ordinance covered not just the university area to ensure secure environment for students but it also included the areas around university which are now hub of hostels and PGs for outstation students. “It is missing in the Act, which only talks about employee and the employer and women who are only working. It does not talk about students. Students are dissuaded from complaining because of the dismal record of justice being offered to victims and this latest Act is only the final nail in the coffin of gender justice in DU,” says Kumari, who along with other faculty members and students will launch a campaign against it.


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