Sexual Violence at college campuses is extremely widespread in India. There is a significant imbalance of power in colleges, the teachers and administrative staff can adversely affect the student’s future by lowering their grades and taking away extra-curricular opportunities from them. This makes students particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. Sexual violence that is perpetrated by students against other students is also prevalent. To check sexual harassment at campuses the University Grants Commission has put in place the University Grants Commission (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2015.
How is Sexual Harassment defined under these UGC Regulations?
Section 2(k) of the regulations defines Sexual harassment as, (i) “An unwanted conduct with sexual undertones if it occurs or which is persistent and which demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile and intimidating environment or is calculated to induce submission by actual or threatened adverse consequences and includes any one or more or all of the following unwelcome acts or behaviours (whether directly or by implication), including:
- physical contact and advances;
- a demand or request for sexual favours;
- making sexually coloured remarks;
- showing pornography without being asked to;
- any other unwelcome act of a sexual nature whether by way of physical or spoken or unspoken conduct.
(ii) The following circumstances, among other circumstances, in relation to any act or behaviour of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment, implied or explicit:
- implied or explicitly promise of preferential treatment as quid pro quo for sexual favours;
- implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in the conduct of work;
- Implied or explicit threat about the present or future status of the person concerned;
- Creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile learning environment;
- Humiliating treatment likely to affect the health, safety, dignity or physical integrity of the person concerned.
The definition is similar to the one found under Act dealing with sexual harassment at workplaces.
What are the responsibilities of a higher educational institution regarding sexual harassment at their campus?
All institutions must inform their students and staff about the sexual harassment guidelines, prominently display the guidelines in the college and also hold workshops and seminars for both students and staff and publicly declare a zero tolerance stance towards sexual harassment.
All colleges must also constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for hearing cases of sexual harassment and in case there is already a complaint mechanism in the form of another committee, it must be reconstituted as an ICC. Half the members of the ICC must be women and the presiding officer must be a woman employed at a senior level, people in high positions such as vice chancellors and heads of department can’t be members of the ICC so as to maintain its authority.
What rules regarding the complaint procedure must be kept in mind?
The ICC must ensure that the identity of the aggrieved and the respondent (alleged perpetrator of the crime) are concealed and not made public during the investigation process under any circumstance.
Male Students can also file sexual harassment complaints, all complaints must be filed within 3 months of the incident and the college must complete the investigation within 90 days and take action in 30 days.
What measures can the ICC take to provide Interim Relief?
- After reviewing the complaint the ICC can transfer either the aggrieved or the respondent to a different department in the college to minimise contact.
- Grant three months leave to the aggrieved party with a guarantee of no loss of position.
- Restrain the respondent from evaluating the complainant’s work in any way, like evaluating exam papers. Ensure that the respondent maintains distance from the aggrieved and if the offender presents a definite threat then restrain them from entering the campus.
- Take all steps to ensure the victim does not face retaliation for making the complaint.
What punishments/compensation measures are provided for under these UGC Regulations?
If the offender is an employee then he must be punished according to the service rules of the college. If the offender is a student then they are punished based on the severity of their crime as evaluated by the ICC, they can be punished in the following way:
- Their privileges, such as library access, scholarship, ID Card can be revoked;
- They can be suspended for a specific period of time;
- They can be expelled permanently; and
- They can be instructed to take counselling or to undertake community service.
What is the basis on which the aggrieved party is entitled to receive compensation from the offender?
While determining the compensation to be received by the aggrieved party from the offender, the following factors must be taken note of:
- Mental trauma, pain and distress caused to the victim;
- Loss of career opportunities due to the crime;
- Medical expenses incurred for physical and psychiatric treatment;
- Status and income of the offender and victim; and
- Feasibility of such payment in lump sum or instalments.
What if a false complaint is made?
In case of false or malicious complaints where the complainant knowingly filed a false complaint, the complainant is liable to be punished.
For educational institutes that do not comply with said provisions, several punitive actions are provided for, after providing due notice.
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