Hyderabad: Acting tough on the ragging menace against girls, the University Grants Commission has brought about a stern law ‘SAKSHAM’ to protect girl students in colleges and universities and other institutes of higher learning. Prof Ved Prakash, Chairman of the UGC, in a letter to all heads of varsities and professional institutions, asked them to appoint a senior faculty to monitor the implementation of SAKSHAM. He has also urged them to advise the nearby institutions on the need to implement the new law inside campuses. This comes into effect immediately.
The UGC has endorsed recommendations submitted by a Task Force, which was constituted soon after the ghastly incident of gang rape of a physiotherapy in Delhi.
The recommendations of the committee are:
Setting up a gender sensitisation unit within the UGC is the key factor.
This will act as a nodal division to give effect to the policy of zero tolerance of gender based violence on campuses of colleges and universities.
Campus safety policies should not result in securitisation, such as over monitoring or policing or curtailing the freedom of movement, especially for women.
All members of higher educational institutions must undergo processes of gender sensitisation, whether students, faculty, administration or support staff. All students must undergo some course or workshop during their period of study. Promotions for staff and faculty should be contingent on participation in gender sensitisation programmes.
All higher education institutions must formulate guidelines for dealing with sexual harassment in their respective institutions, whether they are autonomous, affiliating, co-educational or women’s colleges. The proposed UGC unit on gender sensitisation will provide a template to help institutions in this regard and allay fears of non-compliance.
The institutes must become sensitised to those whose social or structural location renders them especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, whether among students or staff.
A handbook on sexual harassment and gender sensitisation to be prepared for all faculty members.
A model gender sensitisation course has been prepared and a series of workshops on gender, masculinity, sexual harassment, rights and the law have been suggested. All refresher courses must have a gender component including issues relating to sexual harassment.
Counselling services must be professional and provided on a full time basis. The provision of sufficient lighting in and around campuses, reliable public transport, toilet facilities and health (including sexual health) are necessary requirements for women’s security and freedom from harassment. ostel accommodation must be enhanced for women students. A requisite number of female security personnel are required and all security staff must be gender sensitised.
Women’s studies centres or women’s development cells women’s studies centres in universities and women’s development cells in colleges must be strengthened and provided the means to function autonomously.
Recommended projects and research collation of existing materials and mapping exercises can be undertaken including prioritizing research proposals concerning sexual harassment and violence in universities and colleges.
The NAAC in its assessment and accreditation procedures must build in an essential gender audit component as part of the evaluation process.
According to UGC, women constitute 42 per cent of all students in higher education in India today. “At the same time this closing gender gap hides on-going inequalities and disparities among women and men, which can only be approached with an intersectional analysis that combines gender with region, class, caste, religion, ability and sexuality among others” it said.
The UGC has also observed that very few colleges have committees functioning according to clear guidelines and face shortcomings in their functioning. These institutions also said that they are unclear about how to deal with issues of sexual harassment and sought clarity from the UGC.
“Gender equality is not addressed in most campuses whether in the classroom or beyond. There is a definite need to work towards a positive interpersonal climate on campuses,” UGC said in its report.