At DU’s Satyawati College, There’s No Safe Space To Address Sexual Harassment

Posted on October 18, 2016 in Delhi University, Sexism And Patriarchy

By Shrishti Kedia:

Jon Krauker writes“Most women are all too familiar with men like Calvin Smith. Men, whose sense of prerogative renders them deaf when women say, ‘no thanks’, ‘not interested’.”

Harassment against women such as stalking or groping is something about which I have known, for it has been persistent in our society for a long time now. While women have been fighting against it for ages, the problem is still all-pervasive. There is not a single sphere of our society where harassment of women doesn’t take place – be it workplace or educational institutions. In my college too, there have been incidents of harassment, which have forced me to think if this is how the world will continue.

The incident which made me realise the severity of this problem was when I was followed by two boys from my own college. It was just another day at college, or so I thought. Our classes got over around 2 p.m. and I was heading back to my PG when two boys approached me to ask about the directions to the seminar room. I politely helped them out assuming that they were freshers. Later, when I was about to leave, they started asking weird questions. It felt especially weird as I had just met them. “Would you like to spend some time with us? Why are you not ready to do so?” I told them that I had a class to attend and I rushed to get out of college. While on a rickshaw on my way back to the PG, I noticed that the same guys were following me on their bike. They were driving the bike parallel to my rickshaw, and started asking me why I had lied to them and why was I being such a ‘baby’. I was completely freaked out – and so I asked my rickshaw driver to drive faster.

Fortunately, there was a police station nearby, so instead of getting off at my PG, I got off at the police station itself, which made the two boys go away. After ensuring that I was safe, I got back to my PG. Nonetheless, the fact that they were from the same college scared me. A polite ‘no’ had caused such a reaction from them, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had reacted bluntly. Thankfully, I never encountered them again – but I am sure I would have been in a different position had they got to know my exact address. I thought of filing a complaint against them, but the unprecedented consequences of doing so stopped me.

Moreover, I did not know anyone in college whom I could approach regarding my complaint; and this made me wonder if my college was ignorant towards this issue. Were the student community and the administration ill-informed about this problem?

The college administration doesn’t seem to be doing much on this front. The effective functioning of the Internal Complaint Committee, a mandatory committee in colleges of Delhi University has not been looked into properly. While the guidelines are supposedly followed, students seem to be unaware of the existence of the committee. There are no specific details either, concerning its purpose on the college website or on any notice board; except for the numbers of the committee members. Added to this, unlike other colleges of the University, there was no dedicated society to deal with gender sensitisation in Satyawati – until very recently. While I acknowledge that it’s a student’s responsibility to be aware of such a committee, the administration also needs to be specific in its communication and create a space for openly discussing issues and incidences of harassment on campus.

The Internal Complaint Committee at Satyawati, is made entirely of college employees and has no student representation, which in my opinion, fails its purpose and adds to the lack of communication between the student community and administration. Moreover, there are problems with the Act which implements the Internal Complaints Committee in all colleges. For instance, none of the provisions of the Act provides a remedy in cases where only students are involved. This means that if a student is harassed/molested/teased by a fellow classmate, there exist no remedial measures for him/her. The committee also excludes the LGBT community from its ambit – and these are only some matters of concern. There are other forums like DUWA (Delhi University Women’s Association) which cater to the problems faced by women and can be approached. There were also some steps taken by NSS (National Service Scheme) at Satyawati college, in collaboration with the Delhi Police to provide self-defence training, but this only happened once; and I believe that such events should be organised more often.

The students cannot absolve themselves of any responsibilities; I believe that the student community of Satyawati college, needs to take up initiatives within their power to help the cause – and the smallest way in which we can contribute is by raising our voice against such behaviour. Meanwhile, the administration also needs to put this issue on their priority list. They need to take more initiatives like awareness programs and workshops to help create a space for dialogue. The committee too needs to come forward, be less ignorant, more approachable and inclusive. The desired result of any event undertaken is not unattainable and the anti-ragging cell is a contemporary example of the same. A collaborative effort by the administration, the committee and the student community may be a possible and successful solution, which could lead to a desirable change.


Image Source: Hindustan Times/ Getty Images