Sexual harassment cases not uncommon in JNU

Sexual harassment cases not uncommon in JNU

By AREEBA FALAK | New Delhi | 27 August, 2016
Students have registered 35 complaints of sexual harassment on campus over a period of four years.
Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have registered 35 complaints of sexual harassment that took place on campus over a period of four years, according to the “annual report 2014-2015” of GSCASH (Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment). As per the survey, there is large scale discontent among students because of the high number of sexual harassment incidences on campus.

Earlier this week, Anmol Ratan, a former AISA (All India Students’ Association) member, was accused of rape by a first-year PhD student that led to simmering tension to resurface on how safe JNU campus is for female students. Now that Anmol Ratan has surrendered and has been sent to 14 days’ judicial custody, students on campus expect the case to be solved judiciously, rather than becoming a matter of political rhetoric.

The 35 cases reported in the 2014-2015 “annual report” of GSCASH are categorised under several subheads like cases of mental/physical harassment, stalking, unwelcome calls, messages and attention, physical assault, moral policing, intimidation and abusive language. Out of the 35 cases, seven cases belonged to 2012-13, that were still being screened or inquired into by the committee. The cases were not limited to only students being victims and perpetrators. In only 21 cases, both the perpetrator and the victim were students. In other cases, the accused and the victim varied between staff members, workers in the mess, faculty members, security workers and outsiders. In the cases where the victim had approached the police, GSCASH had stopped working on the case.

The last “Gender Survey Report” available on JNU’s website was published in 2013 after a violent attack on a female student was carried out by one of her male classmates. The report said that 53% women and 30% men on campus admitted to have experienced sexual harassment once in a while; 26% women and 22% men faced sexual harassment often (weekly); and 17% women and 29% men said to have had hardly faced sexual harassment on campus ever.

The 35 cases reported in the 2014-2015 “annual report” of GSCASH are categorised under several subheads like cases of mental/physical harassment, stalking, unwelcome calls, messages and attention, physical assault, moral policing, intimidation and abusive language.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, the chairperson of GSCASH said, “By and large, JNU is a safe campus. Such incidents of sexual harassment should not be generalised and should be treated as any other crime is treated. The university had supported the victim in this case as well; she was extended all the help she needed. We definitely condemn such incidents, but it should be understood that students in college reflect outside society at large, along with the goodness and evils it manifests. JNU is not the only campus that has to fight these evils. We try to sensitise our students on campus on improving gender relations.” According to the chairperson, “There is a certain human element involved in the functioning of GSCASH here. If a victim wants to report to the police, he/she can, GSCASH won’t influence otherwise. That is how we operate.”

However, Janhawi, cultural secretary, ABVP JNU, said that GSCASH was not doing its job properly. “JNU is the leading campus in the country when it comes to gender equality. I find my campus safest where we are treated as humans, but outside the campus, we are identified as only females. But we cannot ignore that in this academic year, there have been three reported cases of rape on campus. We cannot understand the reasons behind it. GSCASH is a very strong body in JNU, but I feel that they are lagging behind. There have been no seminars or workshops in recent times on gender sensitisation, though GSCASH elections have been conducted to fill vacant posts. Even in the recent case where the accused surrendered, the victim did not report the rape first to GSCASH. If she had gone to GSCASH, the case would not have come out in the open. The victim chose to register an FIR over GSCASH; this shows students’ declining faith in GSCASH.”

The last “Gender Survey Report” available on JNU’s website was published in 2013 after a violent attack on a female student was carried out by one of her male classmates.

Aishwarya Adhikari, student representative, GSCASH, however, said that students had faith in GSCASH: “The recent rape case where the accused surrendered is a perfect example of the point that we have been trying to make ever since the Ministry of Human Resource Development raised the question of widespread sexual harassment on JNU campus. The students here feel far more confident in reporting such incidents because they know that the university committee will stand by them. You cannot ignore the fact that among a majority of campuses in India, a department like GSCASH does not even exist or exists for the namesake. It is in JNU that such a body proactively participates to propagate gender parity on campus. Yes, gender discrimination exists on JNU campus, but at least people here are willing to acknowledge that, so that they can move beyond it.”

Geeta Kumari, an activist with the ultra-left students’ union AISA, said, “In the outside world, all the restrictions are forced upon the survivor of sexual harassment or assault. But in JNU, our approach is different. Restraining women from entering men’s hostels, asking the genders, not to share drinks together or party together etc., will not change the thought process of people who believe that raping a woman is fine. There are students here who come with a patriarchal mindset, so it takes time for them to accept a world where women are as free as men. That cannot happen overnight. But JNU can surely boast of trying to achieve some success on that front. JNU is an example when it comes to women’s empowerment and how survivors of sexual harassment should be treated.”

 

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