The Delhi University Gender Sensitization Cell in association with Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) organised a panel discussion on the topic, ‘#MeToo campaign in the University’. The panelists included Ms. Ruchi Gupta, Joint Secretary of All India Congress Committee, Ms. Swaty S. Malik, Lawyer at Delhi High Court, Ms. Smita Bharti, Social Activist and theatre director, and Ms. Subhashini Shriya, a member of Pinjra Tod Collective. The panel aptly delved into the need of a gender sensitisation cell in the university spaces and also discussed the policies and politics affecting the same.
The panel discussion started after the ceremonial lamp lighting by the panelists. Ms. Smita Bharti opened the panel discussion by highlighting the importance of campaigns like #MeToo, which has helped the society to progress to a point where women can discuss the violations of their rights or outrage of their modesty without any shame. Ms. Ruchi Gupta stressed on the need of mainstreaming and collectivising the issue of harassment. She suggested that the harassment issues should be a political issue and not just a social issue. Bringing the burning problem of harassment on a political stage will increase the accountability of sexual harassment. Proper leadership will be needed to politicize the issues in right manner. Citing the case of JNU, she condemned the way the administration and the JNUSU have been shielding the sexual offender, Dr. Atul Johri. Ms. Swaty S. Malik hailed the pro-women campaigns as the bold moves. Women have been conditioned socially to believe that they are responsible for harassments that happen with them, she stressed.
DUSU President Rocky Tuseed told DU Beat that, “The need for the Union to take this issue up on an institutional level was immense. We stand with the aggrieved students of Delhi University. All sexual harassment complaints will be taken up by us to make sure that the students have fair access to justice.
Narayani Anand, the convenor of DU Gender Cell told DU Beat that, “The fact that even the most famous women who live apparently protected lives, to those who brave the world at large every day, have been harassed, many even sexually abused – is the reason for us to make sure that this conversation never dies.”
When asked about why the feminist movement has been perceived as slow, Ruchi Gupta remarked, “A lot of us are not concerned about forming an alliance. We fee thatl when the individual can go to the court and file a PIL, what is the need of forming an alliance? But the truth is, the feminist movement cannot be fought in isolation. It has to be fought with other movements that are fighting against power imbalances in society.”
Speaking to the DU Beat correspondent, social activist Smita Bharti made an intriguing observation and asked, “How many of us are comfortable with the terminology ‘sexual’? How many of us know that staring or ogling in any form is a violation of our constitutional right? How many of us are aware that if is our right to be free from this kind of violation?” Responding to queries from DU Beat regarding the current state of women in the University, Subhashini Shriya mentioned some important statistical data, “We need to acknowledge that we have come a long way from the movement in the 1980s. Earlier, the student population of the Varsity consisted of only 12% women. The rest were men. Today, women consist of 48% of the student community of the University of Delhi.” When asked about the subsequent course of action for the #MeToo campaign, High Court Lawyer Smita S. Malik had expressed, “The storm of the #MeToo campaign had moved people into opening up on social media. But now, it is upon us to take this movement forward along with those who are not on social media.”
Rishabh Pandey, a student of Law Faculty welcomed such initiatives and told DU Beat that, “Gender sensitisation is the need of the hour and such panel discussions and seminars should be organised at regular intervals.”
Vaibhavi Sharma Pathak