Appropriate anti-sexual harassment laws in place at DU?
New Delhi: Even as the St Stephen's college has been rocked by an alleged incident of molestation of a research scholar by a professor, DU's Gender Studies group has claimed the university does not have proper rules in place to deal with complaints of such nature.
The Gender Studies Group (GSG) is an independent, non-funded, university-wide students group which was established in the 1990s. Teachers from various departments act as mentors to the group which takes up various surveys, campaigns and sensitisation programmes on gender issues.
In the wake of the molestation row, GSG has launched a campaign demanding revision of the existing anti-sexual harassment rules and regulations at Delhi University.
Last year, DU had scrapped its earlier sexual harassment policy (Ordinance XV-D) and brought in a new one in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.
”The Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) constituted in colleges have several anomalies. Firstly, there is no representation of students in the body. It is handled by the principal and the college employees, mostly teachers.
”Secondly, the DU ordinance on sexual harassment states that if the charges are not proved against the accused, action can be taken against the victim and hence it restrains majority people from coming out in the open about the harassment faced by them,” says a DU Executive Council member.
Ashley Tellis, who has taught at DU's St Stephen's, Kirori Mal and Ramjas colleges and has been raising the issue from various platforms, says, “The Ordinance XV-D had been in operation for nearly 10 years and was one of the best policies in the country.
There was representation from all levels - from the karamcharis to faculty. It was gender-neutral and also came with a broad definition of harassment.”
The group members also claim the new ordinance has no provision for student Vs student complaints.
”A student can only file a sexual harassment complaint against an employee but not a fellow student. How weird is that? Who says that molestation cannot be done by students. Where is a victim supposed to go in such a situation?” says Apporv Jain, a student and member of the group.
A professor at DU's Faculty of Law says, “The ordinance only recognises women as sexual harassment victims. At a central university like DU, believing that men cannot be sexually harassed is a regressive ideology”.
According to the new policy, LGBT students can also not file a complaint of sexual harassment.
”The educational institutions are moving towards making campuses transgender friendly and we are refusing to accept that they can be harassed. The law has left out more stakeholders at the varsity than it has accepted”.
The controversy at St Stephen's has escalated with the HRD ministry taking cognizance and directing the college to expedite the probe.
A Phd student had approached police on June 19 alleging that she was molested by an assistant professor in Chemistry department, who is supervising her research.
She has also accused college principal Valson Thampu of shielding the accused when the matter was reported to him.
The girl has claimed that prior to reaching Thampu she had reported the matter to university's Chemistry department, which directed her to college's ICC.
After lodging complaint with the police she has withdrawn the one before the ICC, saying she has lost faith in the committee's proceedings.