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The Reason Why I Am Unsure Of The New Sexual Harassment Law In Delhi University

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By Bhanvi Satija:

Not so long ago, when I started college, I was filled with excitement, of entering a new and liberating space, as well as fear and anxiety. Stories in the newspapers, tales heard from siblings, and Bollywood movies had messed a little with my brain before I joined – the fear of being teased, ragged, or harassed, not just in college but outside, on the way, or just about anywhere else – had haunted me for nights before the first day.

Image source: Tony Cairns, Flickr creative commons
For representation only. Image source: Tony Cairns, Flickr creative commons

Much to my relief, and to that of many others, I found out on the first day that Delhi University has measures to protect me from all of my above stated fears. With the Anti Ragging Act and Committee against Sexual Harassment in place I have felt much safer and relieved. The committee was established, in every college, as per the Ordinance XV (D) in the year 2003. The main functions of the committee was to ensure a safe environment, free from sexual harassment and to encourage equality. These meant providing for both, preventive and remedial measures, for the students, teaching and non-teaching staff across the university.

These committees were present at various levels – college (College Complaints Committee), cluster of departments/centre (University Units Complaints Committee), campus (Central Pool Complaints Committee), and university level (Apex Complaints Committee). Out of these, the college committee (CCC) was of utmost importance was it was the most approachable. The CCC consisted of two teacher representatives, two non-teaching staff representatives, and three student representatives – that was elected and appointed by proper procedure. Apart from this, the committee was expected to co-opt two people from outside the college with known contributions to women’s issues, preferably with a legal background. The procedure for registering a complaint was also quick and easy: all complaints were to be brought to any of the above mentioned committees by the person seeking redressal himself/herself. The only exception wherein the complaint brought in by a person other than the one seeking redressal was considered, was when the person himself/herself was in forced confinement. If the complainant wishes, he/she could be accompanied by a representative.

However, in 2014, this ordinance was scrapped and replaced by a new law in Delhi University, which is in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013. The procedure of filing a complaint under this is similar to that of the earlier system. However, the committees and their composition under this new law are entirely different. The committees, now called Internal Complaints Committees are made entirely of college employees with no student representation. Moreover, none of the provisions under this new law provide remedy in student vs. student cases. This means that if a student is harassed/molested/teased by a fellow classmate, there exists no remedial measures for him/her. The act also excludes the LGBT community from its ambit. As reported by The Hindu, both students and faculty are not quite satisfied with the new law – as it is unrepresentative of the LGBT, gender biased, and exclusive – as opposed to the earlier ordinance. It leaves out more stakeholders, than it seems to take into account.

Apart from the controversy surrounding the provisions, the low awareness about the existence of these committees is also a matter of concern. On being asked about the College Complaints Committee here is what a few students said:
I don’t think there is such a committee in the college.” – First year student at SRCC.
I don’t think there is a special committee for it, but we have been advised to contact our teachers in case something happens, immediately.” – Second year student at Ramjas.

Even though awareness is extremely subjective, the situation varies from college to college and even, from one department to another. While one fresher from LSR seems to be unaware of the committee, another first year student said, “We were told about the committee during one of our orientations. We are also supposed to elect a class representative soon for the same. Plus, there are noticeboards with information about the committee and the member’s contacts everywhere.”

One of the committee members at LSR agrees that the committee needs to improve on the lines of awareness and sensitivity “I don’t think I can call it an ‘improvement’ as such but it’s something on the agenda for our committee and we will be working upon it this year. We plan to organise a couple of sensitisation workshops this year, so that everyone becomes more aware of their rights, and also about the fact that this committee is in place for them, and they can approach us anytime.” Despite the awareness problem, the member said that the system in place has been quite successful till date.

While this particular committee member says, with conviction, that the system has been successful, it is yet to be seen if the new law, which doesn’t give redressal to the LGBTQ and no longer takes harassment cases between students in its ambit, would be effective in the long run.

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  1. The Game

    I am unsure of the double standards.

    1. Avinesh Saini

      Great acting chops.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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