In response to a recent report of sexual harassment cases in Delhi’s educational institutions by the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW), Prof Sudhir Kumar Sopory, Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), has defended his university by saying that the university have fostered an environment where women are not scared to come out and report incidents of sexual harassment and that is the reason why the number of reported cases is high and the university has been wrongly portrayed in the past few days.
According to the DCW report, 51 out of 101 reported cases of sexual harassment from 16 educational institutions were from the JNU. “I disagree that JNU has the highest number of sexual harassment cases and going by percentages is not the correct way to look at it. We have been very successful in fostering an environment where women are not scared to come out and report such incidents. We have very active and competent bodies to address such reports in a short span of time. That is why cases don’t go unreported,” Professor Sopory told The Sunday Guardian.
He explained the need for active sexual harassment redressal cells and better gender sensitization across universities. “JNU has a very strong and active set of bodies that deal with such issues. There is a body called GSCASH (Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment) that is dedicated to handling such complaints and action is taken swiftly,” he said.
“There are courses and activities throughout the year where we sensitize and inform students and employees of the university about the provisions in place to protect them from sexual harassment. There is a need to standardize regulations aimed at handling complaints of sexual harassment of women in educational institutions. We at JNU have instilled confidence in women that their complaints will be addressed and that they will not be victimized. That should be the case everywhere,” he added.
“Most of the cases of sexual harassment in big universities go unreported as there are no clear regulations or proper implementations. The sensitization is inadequate and more work needs to be done by universities to solve these problems,” Professor Sopory said.
Explaining on the number of reported cases from JNU, Shehla Rashid, vice president, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU), said: “The number of complaints reported is very low and does not reflect the reality. Sexual harassment is a widespread phenomenon and one that is hugely underreported. Women fear a backlash for speaking up and even if they wish to report the matter, the right kind of institutions do not exist.”
“The number also reflects that women in JNU are aware of their rights and are able to speak up, whether the case is against a teacher or a senior. It is worrying that all other universities in Delhi, combined, have reported only as many complaints as were received in JNU. This only goes on to substantiate the point that, even today, even after Delhi witnessed such a powerful anti-rape movement, women are afraid of speaking up,” she added.
A DCW report released last week revealed that 51 out of 101 sexual harassment complaints filed in 16 educational institutions in Delhi since 2013 were from the JNU. The commission had also noted that the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2013 was not being implemented properly in many of these institutions. The data reveals that the internal complaints committee of the JNU reported 51 cases of sexual harassment since 2013. JNU was followed by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) with 10 complaints and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) with nine.
Also, six of the complaints still lie pending. Three of the six were from IGNOU and the other three from Jamia Milia Islamia, AIIMS and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. The report added that six of the 22 institutions in Delhi did not report any cases of sexual harassment.