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Business As Usual - Sexual harassment on Gujarat campus

by Darshana Chaturvedi, 16 February 2009

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The Times of India, 15 Februrary 2009

Indifferent towards women’s safety

by Darshana Chaturvedi

Vadodara: Do the M S University authorities really care for its over 15,000 girl students and 450 female teachers present on the campus everyday?

The fact that MSU created a committee to address grievances of women after 60 long years of its creation only shows how seriously the safety and security of females is taken.

After much dilly-dallying, the Women’s Grievance Redressal and Counselling Cell (WGRCC) was formed last year in June but most women in the varsity are not even aware about it.

The authorities did create this panel after two cases of sexual harassment came to light a couple of years back. However, social activists working for women’s welfare alleged that the committee wasn’t formed following legal guidelines and that it was not helping the victims much. This, when the university is being headed by a woman chancellor, Mrunalinidevi Puar.

"The female teachers often converse privately about either being sexually harassed or being asked for sexual favours. But most of them don’t file complaints as they fear they won’t get justice. Also, they fear that their careers might suffer as the accused have good clout," said Trupti Shah, founder of Sahiyar, an NGO working for women’s welfare.

Shah added, "MSU has failed to make the committee effective and accessible to female students and staff."

In fact, the formation of WGRCC itself raises several questions as the committee is heavily loaded by administrative staff, senate and syndicate members with negligible representation from lower level staff members. Also, not much efforts have been made to publicise the committee’s formation and its functions. The university administration has simply sent across a circular to all the faculties informing them of the cell.

"I wonder how many female students and teachers are aware about such a committee," said Amita Verma, former dean of home science faculty.

Interestingly, the university had flouted Supreme Court guidelines while forming the committee in June last year. The panel was headed by vice-chancellor Ramesh Goyal when the court orders clearly stated that such committees should be headed by a woman.

The chairman of the committee was changed after a city-based NGO raised objection to Goyal’s appointment.