Are Sexual Harassment Cases Silenced on Campuses?

Girls College

We’ve just stepped into the year 2018 and for some reason, the age-old practices of confinement of women and keeping them under control is still practised. Earlier women were confined to their kitchen and household (this is still the scenario) but later broke this discriminatory rule to step out to study and work. But even while studying women are confined within their hostels and PGs. A curfew time is set and expected to be followed rigorously.

Kamala Bhasin, explains five ways of how men control women in a patriarchal system:

1. Women’s productive power

2. Women’s reproduction

3. Women’s sexuality

4. Women’s mobility

5. Property and economic control.

While all of these still remain with a little bit of improvement, Women’s sexuality exists in a profound manner and it’s not okay!

The year 2017 saw various voices speaking up against sexual harassment at their private space, workspace and educational institutions.

Raya Sarkar’s crowdsourced list of sexual predators in academia was one amongst them. This list had polarised the Indian scholars and the law student received an equal amount of appreciation as well as backlash. This was a step that shook the knees of many who were getting away with such crimes. Women stepped up and over 70 names of professors from Indian universities were mentioned in the list but has this changed the scenario?

Are Students Safe on their Campuses?

Do they know how to safeguard themselves? Is it necessary in the first place to safeguard themselves in a space like educational institutions? Are the claims made by students, nothing but weasel claims? Do students get the opportunity to be heard and to question? Are there adequate options for redressal? Do they even have a mechanism to complain? Moreover, do they dare to complain? Asking these questions to a bunch of students, we unsurprisingly heard similar answers. The Answer was a big, fat NO!

The Primary Barriers

The primary barrier for the voices to be heard is the culture of disbelieving. Nobody seems to believe that anything of such nature could happen at institutions.

The relationship between a teacher and a student is considered sacrosanct in the Indian culture and this has also blurred the reality.

A student from Delhi University explains how this disbelief plays out in various angles. She says, “If student complaints about a sexual harassment case, the first thing that she is warned about is that she will have to face consequences for complaining. It’s bizarre how the person who has gathered the courage to open up in a suppressing society like ours is subtly warned not to continue this as this might spoil her reputation, marks, career and well-being.

The person on whom the complaint is registered is not scorned or warned of consequences. The number of questions, the kind of questions, questioning the girl’s character, asking if she has a boyfriend, judging her by her clothes happen instantly. Here there is a complete belief that the professor wouldn’t have done anything rather the student must have provoked or is trying to corner the professor due to various reasons. There is a culture of disbelief in such cases”.

Are campuses tolerant towards hearing sexual harassment cases?

If there are cases, movements, campaigns on the issue, there is lack of understanding that all of these exists as there is a reason in the first place. If there was nothing of such nature, then why would these things exist? The need of the hour is for everyone to accept that sexual harassment takes place and that it’s not okay for it to happen. It’s not something that needs to hide under the table and lock it down from discussions. We are guaranteed the freedom of speech and speaking against the unjust should be appreciated and encouraged rather than silenced. It should rather be taught in these spaces that there is everything right about raising your voice about things that are unjust.

Our campuses should be tolerant spaces where students should be heard and heard with a certain amount of belief. Their problems should be redressed. They should not be threatened for raising their voice. There should be a proper mechanism to address these issues without bias. They should not be threatened with consequences if they complain.

The aforementioned points are simple to read, understand but hard to implement in a patriarchal society like ours. We all the know the problems and the solution to those problems but the real problem is that we are all silenced to take action. This can be changed and should be changed.

Picture Credit: Indian Express

Also Read: Outrage As JNU Internal Committee To Replace Sexual Harassment Panel

Reshma is an intern with SheThePeople.TV