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Students Take To The Streets: Sexual Harassment Has To Stop

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Sexual harassment cases have been growing in New Delhi. In a protest held in University of Delhi’s North Campus, students of various colleges joined hands to protest against the harassment faced by a University teacher during the Holi festival. Our Sub-Editor Nitum Jain joined hands with the protesting girls. She reports below.

Holi is probably the most fun festival in India and like in the case of all good things in life; it too comes with its drawbacks. With this year’s Holi just around the corner, the campuses of Delhi University was filled with PCR vans patrolling the streets and posters everywhere screaming a safe and harassment-less Holi. Every year several cases of sexual-harassment towards girls have arisen as a major trouble during this time of the year. I am afraid 2011 was no different.

Returning to college on the 21st, the day after Holi, there were myriad evidences of the festivities in the form of pink, red and green skin and nails. But along with that floated the news in the hallways that a member of our teaching faculty had faced harassment on the very same day that we acquired all those skin tones.

A teacher of Indraprastha College for Women (IP College) faced prolonged harassment at the hands of a group of male students belonging to Hindu College and Ramjas College of the same campus. The incident occurred in the evening on the 20th when passing through Hudson Lane. Ms. Gupta (name changed) saw a girl getting hit with a water balloon in the chest; the girl hurried off with a whispered ‘its okay’ due to embarrassment. Ms. Gupta, however, felt it was her civil duty to question such behavior and thus shouted at the group to come down from their vantage point on the terrace and talk to her. They chose to make her their next target, attacking with both balloons and abuses. She dialed the helpline number of the police to report the incident and placed several calls before her complaint finally got through. Keeping in mind the recent Radhika Tanwar case which has brought in light that such complaints should be given top priority, the PCR vans still took half hour to reach her.

During that period she received many rude gestures and lewd remarks, despite the fact that she had revealed that she were a teacher of the University. The police did more damage than help when the group of hooligans did come down and there was a scuffle between them and a few of Ms. Gupta’s friends who has arrived. Receiving some shoves herself, she was horrified to hear the police blame her for taking the law in her hands and had to watch helplessly as her own companions were bundled into the van with the perpetrators. An FIR was lodged against the misbehaving students and her own help was freed but the process was harassment itself when she had to sit for 5 hours in the police station only to have the boys out on bail before she even got the photocopy of her FIR.

She was a grown woman, a teacher at that, all she wondered during the speech she gave today that marked the beginning of a protest by students was “What could a college girl do in such a circumstance?”

The protest started was by students of IP College who took to the streets of North Campus with several banners and cries. A strength of more than 500 young women marched through the traffic on the streets, handing out fliers speaking against Sexual Harassment and Eve-teasing. An organization, AISA, helped us along as more and more students joined, swelling our ranks. Hindu, Kirori Mal, Ramjas and Khalsa were the colleges where we marched in with various slogans, asking them to join us in our fight against such abuse and the response was tremendous. The roads of the campus rang with our cries.

“We want justice!”

“Misbehaviour won’t be tolerated!”

“Delhi Police, be alert”

The most prominent one was “Yeh campus humaara hai, gundo ki jaageer nahi!” (This campus belongs to the students, not hooligans and harassers!).

Though this protest may not have changed anyone — A bus had rolled by the lines of the protestors, the college guys inside whistled and ogled despite the multi-coloured banners we were shoving in their faces–but the point was to trigger a thought and be an impetus to change. If one woman who faced such a circumstance could bring a force of hundreds at one’s gates, so can each and every one of us. It makes us aware of the answer to her question: There is much even a college girl can do.

The question is that if something like this happens to your friend, sister, mother, passerby, or even yourself, would you be willing to go out on the streets and make sure your voice is heard? Would you join in? Voice yourself in the comment box below.

You must be to comment.
  1. Amritapa Basu

    It feels sad to read this. The capital of the country has become crime capital, rape capital, sexual harassment capital. First Radhika Tanwar case and now this. The saddest part is the police accusing the teacher for the happenings. They are incompetent to curb these happenings and then shirk reponsibilities by such baseless blam-games.
    It was practically sickening to read the fact that guys were ogling and whistling at the women when the protest was on. What do they take us for? Animals caged in zoo!!!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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