In a move to struggle against the abysmal mechanisms to address sexual harassment in colleges of University of Delhi (DU), members of the Pinjra Tod, a feminist collective, came out to protest outside the Proctor’s Office, in the afternoon of 7th February 2017.
With passionate sloganeering such as “Sexual Harassment Nahi Sahenge, Saare Pinjro Ko Tod Denge” (we won’t accept sexual harassment, we’d break the cages created for women) and “Saare Chatraaye Hai Taiyyar, DU Prashasan Khabardaar” (all the women students are prepared, beware DU administration), Pinjra Tod put forth their demand of autonomous Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) with elected student and staff representatives to the Deputy Proctor.
It is noteworthy that the sexual harassment complaint filed against a professor in Daulat Ram College by a student last week is not an isolated incident. Facing sexual harassment is a lived reality for many women students on campus, the fight against which becomes particularly difficult when the complaint is against someone in a position of power, in a context where institutional mechanisms of redressal are absent or non-functional, and the complaints are regularly silenced in the name of destroying the ‘reputation’ of the college.
Despite the University Grant Commission (UGC) Regulations of 2015 mandating all colleges of the DU to constitute autonomous and elected ICCs, elections to elect representatives have not been conducted in any college besides Miranda House, Ramjas, and Hindu.Daulat Ram College, like most Delhi University colleges, does not have an ICC and no elections have been held in the college for student representatives to the ICC, as was mandated by the UGC.
Responding to passionate slogans like “Elected ICC Dena Hoga, Warna Rozz Dharna Hoga” (you’ll have to constitute elected ICCs, or else we’ll protest every day), the Deputy Proctor who had come out of his office, tried to assure the gathering by saying, “We will request all colleges to abide by the UGC Regulations and constitute elected ICCs”. Retorting to this, a Pinjra Tod member put forth a rational argument, “By the nomenclature of your position, you hold a certain kind of authority that we don’t. Requesting is not your job. You’re drawing money from the Indian government, which is why you need to get things done.”
In an emotional and spirited deliverance, senior Pinjra Tod member Subhashini declared, “Ladkiyon Ko Hostel Mei Bandh Karna Bandh Karo, Bandh Karo” (stop locking girls in hostels). On being asked by the correspondent regarding their demands, she answered, “Besides ensuring the constitution of independent ICCs, the Proctor must ensure that colleges hold compulsory gender sensitisation workshops, sessions on sexual harassment, and initiate redressal mechanisms for freshers.”
Shedding light on the importance of these ICCs to be gender neutral, Dr. Vinita Chandra, English Professor at Ramjas College, observed, “While you will not find a single girl who will say that she has not been sexually harassed in campus, boys also face sexual harassment. Men report that there is pressure on them to ‘act like a man’ by catcalling and commenting on women.”
Further, senior Pinjra Tod member, Devangana Kalita, in her heartfelt speech questioned, “Can you guarantee that in another two weeks, all DU colleges will hold ICC elections?”, before handing over the Memorandum of demands to the Deputy Proctor.
Feature Image Credits: P.V. Purnima for DU Beat
Vaibhavi Sharma Pathak