Women are scared to come forward to make complaints regarding sexual harassment, college managements are often unsupportive and regionalism on campuses is creating rifts between students.
These are just some of the issues that emerged on Friday at a two-day seminar on sexual harassment on campuses. The seminar is being organised by the Mumbai University’s women’s development cell (WDC) at the Kalina campus on the occasion of the cell turning ten.
“It is a time for stock taking, to look at the difficulties and the efforts,” said Kranti Jejurkar, chairperson of the cell. “Sexual harassment is a serious issue but some colleges still can’t digest that word.”
Aside from the University cell every college is supposed to have a women’s development cell to address sexual harassment complaints. “Instead of accepting that harassment happens on campus, some colleges think it will come into existence if you talk about it,” said Madhavi Pethe, a college principal and one of the members of the WDC.
Speakers on Friday at the seminar included outstation representatives from universities of Delhi, Jadavpur, Baroda and Calicut.
“One flashpoint has been an increase in regionalism, with an influx of North Eastern students in campuses in Delhi and Calcutta,” said Paromita Chakravarty of Jadavpur University. She also addressed the fundamental problems with notions of romance and friendship. “The notion of love has been linked to a notion of legitimate violence,” she said.
All of this is complicated by the fact that women students themselves are hesitant to come forward. “The reluctance of students to complain is a major issue,” said Janaki Abraham, from Delhi University. “We continue to have a very feudal structure in the teacher-student relationship.”