In a recent online study, many former and current female students have come forward to admit being sexually assaulted. The study found out that 1 in every ten women has been sexually assaulted by any of the faculty members in the academic institutions. Another alarming factor is the significant percentage of the survivors who keep the harassment to themselves, while a minor fraction could gather the courage to lodge complaints to the relevant committees on their campuses.
About the Survey
The survey was conducted to recognize the prevalence of sexual assault taking place in higher educational institutions. It revealed that 57 out of the 567 responders had become victims of sexual harassment within their campuses. Among those 57 women, 87.71% were assaulted by other students of the same campus, 12.28% by any of the faculty members, and 10.52% by someone from the non-teaching staff members. Among those 57 victims, six were also assaulted by multiple perpetrators. The study shows that most of the survivors could not even gather the courage to lodge an FIR against the assaulters. 33 of the 57 students refrained from lodging complaints against the assaulters despite the existence of relevant committees on their campuses.
Reasons Behind Official Complaints Not Being Lodged
The survey has also looked into the reasons which became a barrier in the way of the official complaint being lodged; and the study revealed that 56.14% of the victims were fearful of character assassination, 36.84% of them stepped back fearing backlash from their institutions, and 33.33% stated out that there were no relevant committees, some having all the three reasons too.
According to Article-21 of the Indian Constitution and the law on sexual harassment at the workplace, colleges and universities had introduced the Committee Against Sexual Harassment (CASH) or Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) so that students can address their issues. Still, most of the victims fear to come out openly with their experiences and expose the assaulters.
Previous Instances of Women Taking to Social Media Platforms
Instances of women taking to social media platforms to proclaim their assaulters through the #MeToo movement created a stir for change in society. All these shoutouts were sufficient to let out a big question mark regarding the safety of women in educational institutions across the nation. Through the movement, the victims could raise their voices against assaults in reputed universities, including Jadavpur University, Banaras Hindu University, and Jawaharlal Nehru University. The whole movement shook the country by reflecting the potential of the students to call out and challenge the system.
The Policy Times Recommendations
- Establishing committees against sexual harassment should be announced as ‘mandatory’ for every educational institution.
- Students have to be courageous to speak up against the perpetrator, and they can be more empowered if their fear of character assassination fades away. To make this happen, the society has to lay the foundation stone by standing with the victim without judging her ‘character’.
- Every responsible citizen must stand against these atrocities. Raise your voice and stand with the victim whenever you witness violence or sexual assault against any gender.
- Tougher laws should be introduced against the perpetrators and they should also be implemented.