A FORMER student of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, has alleged that the college’s Women’s Development Cell (WDC) shamed her and handled her complaint of sexual harassment against a fellow student in a “malicious” way three years ago.
Kripa Fernandes, a 2016-batch Xavierite, detailed her experience with the WDC in a Facebook post on Tuesday while joining the #metoo movement, sharing her experiences of sexual harassment through social media posts like many woman across the country.
In her post, Fernandes said that in January 2015, when she was in the second year of college, she had started dating a friend from the Science stream. “He was abusive. He would beat me up in public and occasionally sexually harass me,” wrote Fernandes. She said that after months of going through the ordeal, she approached her friends, family as well as the relatives of the alleged perpetrator.
“When his family turned against me, for my protection, I turned to the WDC,” she said, adding that while the WDC took up her case, it handled the case in “the most malicious way possible”.
She said that during a meeting with the committee, its members asked her if she had previous relationships and accused her of perpetrating violence for raising her hand on the man to defend herself. One of the members, Fernandes said, tried to prove that she had a mental disorder. Fernandes eventually reported the matter to then principal Frazer Mascarenhas and eventually, the man was suspended for a week.
Fernandes said the man continued to stalk her and she was ostracised by the Science stream. “I spent the whole of third year being afraid of my professors. I had nowhere to turn, nowhere to go. And it is all because of the WDC of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai,” she wrote.
When contacted, Fernandes said: “The reason I am speaking out now is that many women are detailing their accounts of harassment and that gives me courage. Some women have named a former Xavier’s student for harassing them. At the same time, people are also talking about how not many women students know about the WDC. It was, therefore, important to share my experience with the WDC, so other women know about it.”
While WDC members did not comment, Principal Rajendra Shinde said: “I am really concerned and worried about the girl. What happened to her, should not have happened. The functioning of the WDC is confidential. However, I will look into the matter and take up the case with the WDC. We will see what course to take and if there is an error in the functioning of the WDC, it will be rectified.”
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However, he denied allegations that women students were not aware about the WDC on campus. “We do lot of things for gender sensitisation, awareness programmes for students, staff and faculty. Digital signages have been placed at different spots on the campus to encourage students to report any incidents of harassment with the WDC.”