Hatred towards women is evidently prevalent in India, substantiated by the high rate of rapes and sexual assaults. But one would assume that the hub of intellect – the nation’s higher education institutions – would not be part of this.
Surprisingly, the first students’ election to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in Hindu College took place on January 15, and gave a picture contrary to this perception. The panel is meant to look into complaints of sexual harassment.
Hindu College has always had a dominant male atmosphere as well as gender inequality. One does not define male dominance by looking at the number of male and female students on campus (which is the commonly accepted rhetoric) but by the spaces occupied by men and their power dynamics.
For instance, of the 12 ministers and 12 secretaries in the college cabinet, the number of women is just two. It is a parliament which has found almost 1,500 female students of the college incapable of holding positions, and which infantilises its women when it comes to decision-making.
From political positions to sports teams, Hindu College has preconceived notions about women and their “roles” in society. At the same time, how good are those spaces which women have been able to occupy is questionable as well.
The recent elections to the ICC seem to have institutionally paved the way for hearing of stifled #metoo voices. Women students of the college, who had to earlier run to scary professors or the principal for redressal, now have peers to reach out to.
If made functional according to the guidelines and regulations, the ICC can organise campaigns, workshops and sessions for a better understanding of sexual harassment and gender-related matters for all of us who come from various backgrounds and have been deeply disturbed by patriarchy with its invisible scars.
On January 15, while the politically “correct” crowd was celebrating the victory of women candidates (from first and third year) in the ICC election, there is another inside story to be told.
One can easily dismiss the notion of the progressiveness of Hindu College from the fact that the compulsion to elect one woman candidate from each year was seen by many students as a compulsion to vote for only one woman candidate.
Although there is no mention about the gender of student representatives in the ICC guidelines, a weird rule has been set by the college administration that you have to elect two women and one male. The candidate who won from among second-year students was male.
The ICC election from its very first edition has been turned into a game for men who “play politics”. Our fight as women to represent ourselves and rectify social evils that affect every inch of our bodies and minds every single day has been reduced to “bhai ko vote karna” and “apne department ke candidate ko vote do.”
If one ponders deeply, the intentions of the administration regarding the process of elections are deeply suspicious. It is the same one which in the past blatantly curbed a student movement regarding hostel fees via abuse of its powers.
All one needed to realise the lack of sensitisation with which these elections were carried out is to have watched an exclusive male bunch shouting slogans for their bhai’s election to a committee against sexual harassment and being carried around campus on their shoulders. Women and minority genders do not have the privilege to celebrate a collective win, merely for redressal of harassment on campus.
We have taken our places in the battleground but the struggle continues. Sexual harassment is an everyday reality for women and minority genders. In academic spaces – where we can still be counted on fingers in positions of power – our existence is a struggle in itself, in which this committee is one tiny step.
This piece is part of our series #MakeMyCampusSafe in collaboration with Feminism In India
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