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What Happens When Sexual Predators At Universities Target Women Students

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A few years ago, I received a phone call from a colleague’s relative who was a student in a renowned business school. She said she was unable to concentrate on her studies. She felt like discontinuing her studies because a visiting faculty member, who is a professor of Asian American origin from a US university, is alleged to have resorted to unwanted sexual statements, touching, patting, pinching, stroking, squeezing, tickling, or brushing against a person.

This Is A Serious Offence

At some of the public and private universities in the country, there has been a tendency of complaining that lecturers were demanding sex from the students in exchange for academic favors. This is a serious offence and it is required that it be investigated impartially and quickly. It is also important not to be trapped by living with the results of other people’s thinking. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Trust That The Dots Will Somehow Connect In Your Future

Trust your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path. While these scandals are motivated by either money or lust, don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own voice.

In many cases they thrive upon the wide political influences enjoyed by vested interests available in the education sector. Usually money changes hands, and men demand sexual favors from women. The students that are enrolled for Doctoral programs, PhDs, professional courses, and other higher level programs become victims as their future is in peril, resistless, and exposed to such predators.

No longer panicked, my colleague’s relative expressed her desires with intense emotion.

If A Girl Objects, He Holds A Grudge

After a series of deliberations and careful analysis of the case, they decided to take up the matter with the Provost in the University and seek assistance regarding the sexual harassment and remarks. The school first launched its investigation into accusations of “repeated and systemic sexual harassment. The professor in such cases often makes sexually-coloured remarks, discusses his lectures with psychological examples of sex, often behaves in a perverted or sadistic way, and comments on the looks and figure of almost every girl. If a girl objects, he holds a grudge against her.”

There is a strong possibility that the complaint is linked to the difficult temperament of the teacher and the subsequent coursework offered by him.

Rotten Apples Among Moral And Up-Right Teachers

Gadgets and tools such as cell phones, intranets, social intranets, internet blogs texting, messaging, private messages, social media, tracking and case software are increasingly a factor in teacher misconduct cases. Computers, laptops, iPhones usage, and exchanges via email, computers, sound systems, reality television, money, travel, clothes, cars, physical appearance, iPods, sex, popularity, books texting and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are an element in seven of every ten teacher-misconduct cases with a sexual component these days.

The real issue today is that more and more people think it is okay to cross boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. It leads us to think differently about ourselves, our values, and even the difficulties facing us.

“If I don’t get caught, it’s okay.” Now, in truth, the vast majority of teachers are moral and upright people and a few make the whole profession look bad. Let’s remember they actually have to change the good to great teachers that we need in our schools, colleges and universities with the few who may be termed as rotten apples.

Social Media Influences Misconduct

As mentioned earlier that Social media influences teacher misconduct-cases to a great extent. They simply target girls who are in need of help by offering sexual favours in return. “It takes great courage for a young woman to refuse to be a part of this clandestine operation because everything they see in society, in literature, in movies, in books, usage and exchanges via email, money, travel, clothes, cars everything they hear from their peers is not only obnoxious but also awful and disgusting.”

Aihik Sur of New Indian Express News Service (Published: October 26, 2017) spoke to Raya Sarkar, the 24-year-old law student from University of California at Davis, who said that some of the professors she named as sexual harassers in her controversial Facebook post have been calling up their accusers and promising them help in getting to Oxford University.

Sur asks: “What prompted you to post such a list?”

Raya: People ask victims “Why now?” “Why 20 years later?”, and use that as a reason to dismiss allegations. One needs to understand the power assemblages at work that silence and prevent victims from speaking out.

Why am I doing this now? Because I feel Harvey Weinstein’s case has started many discussions and people are now more open to believing victims. The #MeToo campaign did trigger me to do this, and I took this opportunity to create a list to warn students using first-hand accounts from survivors. The list is primarily for students to be wary of these professors because in my opinion — knowing how college administrations function — these harassers will continue to hold their positions of power.

Naming And Shaming Sexual Predators

This may just be the beginning. NewsX, on October 26, 2017, reported a Facebook post by Raya Sarkar inviting others to name academics who have sexually harassed their students. It had gone viral, with more than 60 professors listed by name and the institution they are affiliated with.

Maybe there are a lot more—hundreds and thousands of people waiting to take a dig and post their concerns and ensure that their fight—will be met with justice, honour, righteousness, and triumph.

You have a say in this world, and you need to speak up. You have to work out a solution or be a part of it wherein children, teenagers, and young adults in higher education are allowed to report such cases. The state governments should come forward to implement a time-bound framework of introducing sexual harassment combat mechanisms in all schools and colleges. Also, an important point that can be made is to have a database for sexual offenders. No matter where the offence takes place irrespective of the outcome all the culprits must be made liable and visible to the online community.

Offenders should not escape with a mere dismissal. They should rather face consequences for life, for the irreversible psychological damage they do to survivors.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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