JUST LIKE advertisements and posters on anti-ragging cell, awareness material on the anti-sexual harassment panel of Panjab University should be visible across the campus, said Kanupriya, President of the Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC). In an earlier representation to the authorities, she had demanded advertisements for the Panjab University Committee Against Sexual Harassment (PUCASH) because she felt there was a lack of awareness among students on the functions and purpose of the panel.
Kanupriya further stated that the student council would be actively involved in raising awareness on sexual harassment on the campus. “If there’s no safe space, students will not come forward and the whole council should be involved in this procedure,” she added. The office of the Dean of Student Welfare (DSW) will be organising awareness seminars on sexual harassment and the DSW (Woman) has sent her a communication to chalk out a plan. “I have made a tentative schedule for the awareness programmes and we will move from block to block so that a large number of students can attend at the same time,” added Kanupriya.
The first seminar will be held in the morning on October 15 and students will be given attendance so that they can attend without any hassle. Blocks such as the dental college and University Institute of Engineering and Technology (UIET), located on the south campus, will have it in their own departments. For law students, the seminar will be held at the Law Auditorium and the sciences block will have a common seminar.
So far, four sessions have been planned and PUCSC wants to finish the lectures by the first week of January. After that, it will launch an awareness drive with questionnaire along with detailed advertisements or posters of contacts in the committee, departments and hostels.
“We want student representation on the panel and awareness posters and advertisements across hostels and departments. Students should know whom to contact in their department if they want to lodge a complaint or for any other query,” said Kanupriya.
The plan also involves appointing a research scholar as in-charge of each hostel so that complainants could go to them if they did not feel comfortable talking to the authorities. These in-charges could in turn counsel complainants on the guidelines and procedure followed under the Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act, 2013.
“We never get to know what happens in these committee meetings and how things are handled. There should be a proper record of the cases that come to PUCASH,” said Kanupriya.
Last year, PUCSC 2017 secretary Vani Sood had launched Pinjra Tod on the campus where she had demanded representation of office-bearers in PUCASH. “We wanted students to know about something that is there for them. The authorities want the secrecy in the procedure to be maintained and cite UGC guidelines. But the elected president of the council has also been given a responsibility,” said Sood.
She added that the authorities did not want the rules strengthened. “Contacts should be accessible and if there are hardboards in every hostel for anti-ragging, then why not for anti-sexual harassment panel?” she further said.
Students said there was a lack of awareness on PUCASH which was the primary requirement. “If people are not sensitive then nothing can move forward. Even students can harass students; it’s not just about teaching or non-teaching staff. We should know the criminal procedure and our rights under this Act,” said a student, requesting anonymity.
DSW (Woman), Prof Neena Caplash, said she had conducted independent awareness programmes in departments last year too. “Both boys and girls need to be sensitised, they should know that there’s a committee. I have sent names and contact details to all hostels and departments, so that if anyone wants to get in touch, there should be ready access,” she added.
During the awareness programmes, students will be shown a documentary on what is sexual harassment and what all is covered under the Act.
“Later, we will take up Q&A sessions and interactions and keep a check on whether all hostels and departments have put up the contact details and ensure that it is visible,” Caplash added.