Women's March To UGC
Recently, we have witnessed a massive movement by women students of BHU against sexual harassment and shameless victim blaming by the university administration. After a horrifying incident of molestation in BHU, when the students demanded action, the warden of the girls’ hostels blamed the women students for going out of the hostel at 6 pm! The BHU students steadfastly rose against rampant incidents of sexual violence and institutionalized misogyny. They built up an agitation demanding freedom and mobility of women students and an end to victim blaming and as well as sexist rules in the campus. They are also demanding an autonomous GSCASH to be established in their university. Just like BHU, in several campuses of the country women students have been speaking up against discriminatory rules in campuses and hostels. The student-teacher community of JNU are also fighting a battle to save GSCASH and its autonomous character.
All such voices coming out of our campuses are not only being severely ignored, but dealt with crackdown from the university administrations. If students of BHU have faced brutal lathi-charge and FIRs on them, the JNU administration has served notices to students who conducted and contested the GSCASH elections.
At such a juncture we feel it is the need of the time to come together and make an effective intervention to hold the UGC and MHRD accountable in making our campus spaces secure, free and non-discriminatory for women students.
The issues at stake that must be immediately responded by the UGC-MHRD are:
1. Justice in cases of sexual harassment and a non-discriminatory campus atmosphere can only be guaranteed through a body that is founded on the principles of gender justice and is autonomous from existing power hierarchies in the University. Unfortunately, administrations in campuses across the country are non-committal in working towards it.
While in most of the campuses the demand for an effective and gender sensitive body has been ignored for long, the GSCASH in JNU that has been built up on the principles of gender justice and autonomy is being dismantled. Representative from different sections of the university to GSCASH are decided through democratic election. Now, the Vice-Chancellor of JNU, who is known to run the university according to the political ideology of the ruling regime, has attacked this very democratic process. The GSCASH of JNU is being replaced with an ICC which will have nominated and not elected members from teachers and staff. What could have been a more effective way to kill the autonomous character of a body entrusted to deliver justice on cases of sexual harassment?
The SAKSHAM Task Force's guiding principles had recommended that the members of specific University campus communities should decide on the structure and composition of their Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) which should be autonomous of existing power hierarchies and representative of every section of the campus community. In particular the SAKSHAM Report had recommended the examples and experience of the JNU GSCASH and DU CASH as a resource for other Universities to learn from. Ironically the UGC Notification supposedly based on SAKSHAM guiding principles has been used to dismantle the autonomous GSCASH in JNU and install non-autonomous ICCs in JNU and other Universities also.
It cannot be stressed enough that any committee, whether it is called GSCASH or ICC or GSCASH-ICC, that is entrusted to deliver justice in cases of sexual harassment and gender based violence in campuses and workplaces, must be fully autonomous from administrative command structure and gender sensitive in character. Its composition must be accountable and not handpicked or merely nominated by the administration. Its rules and procedures must be democratic and transparent.
2. The question of discriminatory rules for women have been raised by women students on campuses all over India, including Central and State Universities and colleges as well as private institutions. Discriminatory curfew timing for women’s hostels, unequal access to campus spaces including library and late hour classes, sexist dress codes and disciplinary norms exist in almost all campuses of the country.
It is high time the demands for ending these discriminatory rules are addressed. Here too the SAKSHAM Report very clearly "stressed that locking the women up was not the answer; the custodial responsibility was to make university spaces safe enough for them to live with a sense of freedom and equality" and "Concern for the safety of all women, but particularly young women students should not lead to discriminatory rules for women in the hostels.”
In the backdrop of the BHU women’s movement and the ongoing battle in JNU to safeguard the autonomy of GSCASH like institutions, let the UGC-MHRD hear the voice of women for secure, free and non-discriminatory campus spaces all across the country.
In this regard, in the process of consultation with other women’s organisations and movemental forces, a proposal for a Women’s March to UGC have been suggested. JNUSU appeals to you for your endorsement, support and participation in the
Women’s March to UGC
27th October, 2pm.
Geeta Kumari, President, JNUSU,
Simone Zoya Khan, VP, JNUSU
Duggirala Srikrishna, Gen. Secy, JNUSU,
Shubhanshu Singh, Jt.Secy, JNUSU
University Grants Commission
New Delhi, 110001, India