Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) president Rocky Tuseed has announced the setting up of a DUSU gender sensitisation cell to “address the long-standing issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment”. However, the decision to make himself the chairman of the body has led to apprehension from various quarters.
In a press release, Tuseed said, “The cell will have the DUSU president as its chairman and a convenor, along with two co-convenors responsible for its functioning.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Tuseed said they have already selected the convenor, Narayani Anand, a student of law at DU. The co-convenors, he said, will be chosen after an interview is conducted by a panel comprising Tuseed, Anand and others. Applicants can fill the form on Google.
Panels meant for gender sensitisation — such as the University Grants Commission-mandated Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at various DU colleges, or the erstwhile Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) at JNU — by rule, have always had women as heads. The ICC rules, for example, state that the presiding officer “shall be a woman faculty member”.
A faculty member of Ramjas College, who was part of the College Complaints Committee before the ICC came into effect, said, “Laws through which sexual harassment or gender sensitisation committees are set up say that women should be chairpersons and that it should be someone with known work in the area. Tuseed does not meet either criteria. There is data to show that women are more comfortable approaching other women after such incidents. Even if this is not an official body, such a decision shows complete lack of sensitivity and knowledge on the subject.”
Sana Fatima, an ICC student representative at Hindu College, said it is not appropriate for the DUSU president to be the chairman. “Mostly, it is women who are sexually harassed. So it makes more sense to have a woman representative. Such a move suggests that there aren’t any worthy women to head such committees and also creates a problem since he holds the power as DUSU president,” she said.
Sonam Goyal, a former GSCASH representative of JNU, said that “elections for such a cell are crucial” and that there is “still a long way to go to have an impartial male head for the body”.
Tuseed, however, maintained that his role would only entail “overseeing” the functioning of the cell. “The active role will be that of the convenor. I will merely oversee the functioning of the cell as a DUSU representative, and will step in only when there is some problem in the functioning of the cell, or if principals don’t cooperate with our decisions. It will be a 50-member committee with mostly women and transgenders,” he said.