While most seem to have a body that looks into matters of sexual harassment internally, they do not seem to be in complete compliance with the UGC mandate.

Status check Do Ktaka Unis have sexual harassment committees as required by UGCImage for representation
news Sexual harassment Friday, June 15, 2018 - 15:35

Sexual harassment at the workplace has been a matter of public concern for several decades in India – and in the last year, there has been growing focus on how our higher education institutions are dealing with the issue. The University Grants Commission (UGC) as per the Sexual Harassment Of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act and its rules, requires all universities to institute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to handle matters of sexual harassment within the university.

But do universities in Karnataka have such committees? TNM reached out to several large universities in the state – and while most of them claim they have a mechanism in place to deal with sexual harassment, the committees themselves don’t seem to be following the guidelines set by UGC. Importantly, most universities don’t have student members or non-teaching staff as part of the committee, as mandated.

Bangalore University (BU)

BU does not have an ICC; however, the University has a Sexual Harassment Prevention and Redressal Policy. They also created a ‘Sexual Harassment Prevention Cell’, and a senior woman faculty member is the nodal officer of this cell, and also assumes the position of the chairperson when complaints are heard. The cell has three members; however, it neither has non-teaching staff nor students as part of the panel, as mandated by the UGC rules.

The chairperson informed TNM that they have conducted gender sensitization training with 900 BU students. However, she herself admits that despite these trainings, students are not aware of the cell.

“So far, some students have approached the Registrar, or the administration, with complaints of sexual harassment, which have then been referred to us,” she said.

She also said that the policy has set procedures to conduct inquiries, contact witnesses and take necessary actions against the offender. The chairperson said that all hearings are written down and reported in detail, and the report is then handed over to the University authorities for further action.

Karnatak University, Dharwad

TNM spoke to a staff member at the Registrar’s office, who did not give us a name. They informed us that the University does have a sexual harassment committee, as per central government rules. However, they did not reveal how many members the committee has, or the composition of the committee. All cases filed are reported to the UGC, the staff said.

University of Mysore

The University has an Internal Complaints Committee, according to the Registrar, and the members are elected as per Central Government guidelines. However, the committee does not have any student representatives or non-teaching staff as mandated by the UGC. It is unclear whether the committee acts independently from the administration? “We ask the committees to take up such issues and then they are presented to us,” the Registrar said. He further informed that the ICC has addressed several complaints of sexual harassment in the last one year.

Visvesvaraya University (VTU)

The University has an ICC as per the UGC guidelines – and, according to the Registrar’s office, they have asked colleges under their jurisdiction to constitute ICCs as well. The five-member committee is nominated by the administration, and a student member may be involved on a case-by-case basis.

According to their website, “The committee shall have five members. The chairperson shall be women. Of the five members, three shall be women. One member from NGO. There shall be representation from both teaching and non-teaching staff. Further, if the complaint involves students, senior student (female) nominated, may be co-opted for the particular matter under consideration.“

How an ICC should be constituted

The ICC is supposed to look into sexual harassment complaints in the university – whether the complaint is made by a student, or teaching or non-teaching staff. It must also provide assistance if an employee or student chooses to file a case with the police.  

The ICC must have a presiding officer, who is a senior woman faculty member at the university. Other members must include two faculty members and two non-teaching employees, nominated by the executive authority. Additionally, the ICC must have three elected student representatives.

Persons in senior administrative positions such as the Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar or Deans cannot be members of the ICC in order to ensure its autonomous functioning.  

Why ICCs are important

The primary function of an ICC is the prevention of sexual harassment, and also inquiry and redressal of complaints. The students of all universities must be aware of the existence of such committees and they must have proper guidelines in place which the students must have proper knowledge of. Anyone can file a complaint to the ICC and the Committee then follows necessary procedures to address the case, according to the rules made by the UGC. As per the UGC, the identities of the complainant(s) or witnesses must not be made public to ensure maximum reportage of such incidents.

 

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