Sexual Harassments in BHU – The Problems, The Statistics & The Solutions
‘Of-course shocking that was, not expected ever; and for me – very first time it was happening to me that somebody had come so close in a dark night evening at 6 p.m. to find a chance to do that. It had a mental effect – I remained stunned for many days. I even felt ashamed of myself that I failed to take any action. Even the guards and proctors sometimes stare at us constantly with gestures and smiles like that of a rapist.’
The aforementioned lines are not the catchy openings of a fictional story. They are the self written lines of a victim of physical harassment, a girl student of Banaras Hindu University who had to go through the trauma right inside the varsity campus. Bold enough to admit, she even mentioned her name, though our team finds it best to conceal that, in accordance with the declaration under which we conducted the survey.
‘You feel so helpless that it even seems all your education is of no use’ – says one, and ‘I feel like saying FUCK OFF to them but don’t know why most of the times they tend to pass by and I’m left walking and wondering alone’ – says another.
It oft-times gets hard to conceive this fact that such events are not only rampant but also exacerbating beyond reckoning right in the heart of the capital of knowledge. They call it degradation of the Banaras Hindu University’s values, I call it irony.
A quick look at the statistics is enough to embarrass us mortifyingly.
Around 67% of the girls say they have been verbally harassed at-least once. 12% of them say they have been physically harassed at-least once.
For a better picture, a Venn-diagram break-up stands like this:
We ask them why they don’t report it to the authorities, telling them about the provision of the Women’s Cell in our university under its policies of prevention of sexual discrimination, harassment and other women related issues. Upon that they laugh in our faces – ‘Are you talking about the one that has long been dysfunctional, with no incumbents?’ we hang our heads in shame, speechless, feeling guilty on the mismanagement.
Another girl is slightly more eloquent and satirical (and rightly so, I must admit) – ‘Do you report against the current trends? No. And such harassments happen countless times over every day. Can we afford to run to the Chief Proctor office every second hour? Such instances are common, they ARE the current trends.’ Can I say she was wrong? What provision do we have to point out and draw her heed to? None.
Let us take a look at the statistics of reported/unreported cases:
Are the rampancy of such incidences and the lack of (or to be more precise, dys-functionality of) a proper Women’s Cell the only reasons for the occurrences of cases going unreported. I think otherwise. A closer examination reveals a grimmer picture. Take a look:
It doesn’t turn out that such incidences are never actually reported. They are, as our survey found out. But more often than not, the outcomes are none, or hopelessly disheartening if any at all.
A girl cites her experience in sync with the aforesaid facet of the problem:
‘One evening when I was going from Triveni Girls Hostel Complex to Lanka, three riders on a single bike overtook quickly from behind me, and one of them slapped me hard on my back. I was shocked. I couldn’t figure out what to do. I momentarily thought I should call the proctors, but immediately I decided against it, recalling a similar instance from the recent past when I was stalked by a man on a bike who had followed me near central library, verbally harassing me continually, and I had reported it to the proctors, in vain. Their behavior was demoralizing. My faith was lost that girls are safe within the campus premises.’
Such apathy leaves me wondering as to whom the victims should report to, the dysfunctional Women’s Cell, the proctors marred by apathy (and oft-times themselves harboring such specks of dishonor) or their faculty members – the professors, the deans and the principals? Yes, here is the most embarrassing side of the story. A shame, a disgrace and a cue enough to take leave of all our faiths and beliefs:
17% of the cases of physical harassments have been perpetrated by none other than the faculty members of Banaras Hindu University and 3% of the cases of verbal harassments have been pulled off by them. People find it hard to digest; I find it hard even to swallow. A unique facet of such cases is that they have a starkly high prospect of going unreported, owing to the inherent risk of compromising on the critical front of examination marks if the name is brought to light, which it would invariably be if a formal complaint is lodged and proceedings undertaken.
Where does the problem lie? Does it lie with the male-students’ mentality who go aboard the harassing acts that they can at-least verbally (and if the spur of the moment permits, then physically) harass the female-students (and yet would go off scot free), does it lie with the faculty members who seemingly want a chunk of sexual favors from their female-students in lieu of their teaching services and their assistance in research works and their awarding of grace marks, does it lie with the female students themselves that they generally don’t tend to lodge formal complaints owing to inefficient system and would rather go on enduring such rampant ‘trends’ of the university culture, or does it lie in the varsity’s ineffective and inefficient policies and frameworks regarding a dysfunctional Women’s Cell and a apathetical and powerless Proctorial Board?
Another aspect that needs our heed is the pie that the outsiders occupy in the verbal/physical harassers break-up (42% and 61% respectively). And since they are outsiders and vanish swiftly after inflicting harassments, the victims are often left wondering as to whom they should report against, and even if they do the proctors and the authorities cite excuses like lack of a specific person to take actions against (and no wonder they are too apathetical to actually seek out the perpetrators, leave alone any hint of actions against them).
Can We Hope for a Silver Lining?
Is there a set of promising and doable measures that could possibly be adopted to assuage and tone down the problem? Maybe yes. Our team discussed with the girls who responded and also debated among ourselves the prospective system.
A STRONG and speedily-acting Women’s Cell should be made where incumbents should be women of clout so that the functionality cannot be negatively affected by the threats of the students. The phone number of the cell should be properly highlighted on/in hoardings, notices and pamphlets fixed across and distributed throughout the institutes, faculties and departments, and hostels.
The powers and number of the proctor-guards need to be increased substantially. At the moment they are no better than bystanders and onlookers who either are marred by apathy or are too weak and scared to act against the rowdy and unruly students. Well equipped female proctor guards should be installed in copious numbers so as to better understand and handle the cases of female sexual harassments.
If a victim still finds the Women’s Cell and/or the Proctorial Board as insensitive toward her case, she must be allowed to have a personal interaction directly with the Vice Chancellor (say, after the VC considers her formal application letter).
If a formal complaint is lodged against a faculty member, the accused should be debarred from invigilating and examining (or even accessing) the plaintiff’s examination answer sheets (and even awarding marks/remarks to her). Such a moratorium should continue at-least till the time a decision is reached. If the faculty member is found guilty – proper actions must be taken, if found not guilty (truly so or even for a lack of proper proofs/alibis) it must be seen to that the acquitted faculty member mustn’t do anything to avenge by harming the plaintiff in any manner whatsoever.
Regular workshops should be organized involving both female and male students and professors where awareness must be spread regarding such harassments. Boys should be made to realize and acknowledge the mental trauma a girl goes through upon being harassed and girls should be educated and trained and motivated to report every single act of such incidences (say over phone calls to avoid the hassle of every time physically going to the concerned authority).
Many streets in the varsity campus premises still lie dark or dimly lit. Proper street lamps with bright illuminations should be installed to deter people from taking advantage of the dark.
The campus buses should have proper male/female proctor guards to avoid harassments in the buses.
CCTV cameras should be installed at as many nooks and corners as possible (lecture theatres, hallways, halls, buses, streets, temples) so as to quickly and specifically identify such incidences with proper cognizance of the perpetrators’ identities. CCTV cameras would account for corroborations of the accusations and would also serve to prevent any doubts regarding false accusations.
The campus should NOT be open for everyone. Only students, faculty members, and supporting staffs should be allowed within (that will eliminate the major chunk-holder of the perpetrators break-up – the outsiders). The visitors/relatives, et cetera, should be made to verify their appointments using phone-calls/appointment-letters, et al. since the varsity also happens to have a hospital which is bound to bring in the general public in profuse quantities, maybe the authorities should consider providing/opening a separate gate for their admissions and they should be cut-off from the rest of the campus premises.
While the implementation of the aforementioned measures is debatable, they do seem to have more pro(s) than the con(s). It is high time we do something while we still can.
The Winkler Question
‘At 8 P.M you can feel safe at Lanka, but not inside BHU’ – says a girl.
2012 was the year of 150th anniversary of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University. In his remembrance, various conferences and competitions had been organized to reflect upon the visions of the great visionary. I take this opportunity to ask all those with the slightest of the hints of sympathy, or empathy, or senses, or humanity; Is this the university built on Mahamana’s visions and principles, the university we feel proud to call ourselves the students of?
- The survey was conducted by the joint efforts of the team RA (Rational Avenue), and its sister organization, team SHE (Strength Heralds Empowerment) in the Triveni Hostel Complex (BHU).
Author: S.S Niks
‘Freethinker’, ‘an agnostic’, ‘an atheist’!
Want constructive evolution!!
Tackle and combat the vagaries of life in whatever form I can!!!