Task force holds session for authorities of universities, interacts with students

Incidents being reported from the State reveal a largely retrograde mindset, which should not be the case, going by the high rate of literacy, Meenakshi Gopinath, chairperson of the gender sensitisation task force constituted by the University Grants Commission (UGC), has said. She was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a day-long session the members of the task force held with administrators of universities in the State here on Monday.

“The fact that the Kerala State Higher Education Council agreed to hold the session shows that they are open to change,” she said. To understand loopholes in existing arrangements and to suggest remedial measures, the task force was involving itself directly with the stakeholders. One of the north-eastern States was being considered as the next stop, Dr. Gopinath said, hoping that universities across the country would take a cue from this initiative and organise similar platforms for students to state their grievances.

When asked whether women’s development cells and sexual harassment complaints cells functioning in colleges performed this role, she said that “they may not have been effective.”

The session was followed by an open forum in which students too participated. Based on a student’s comments on excessive restrictions and moral policing, she said access to learning was something all women had the right to. “There is this whole toss-up between safety and freedom. Safety does not mean you imprison people. In that case, if you lock up all men in their homes, you will never have rape. Why only lock up the victim and keep them in safe zones,” Dr. Gopinath asked.

The session was initially meant to be an interaction with administrators alone — to elicit their views and impress upon them the importance of gender education and sensitisation measures. The open forum was an idea which cropped up later, she said, hoping that non-governmental organisations such as Sakhi would organise such events on campuses. Members of the task force might return for such a session that would promise greater student participation, she said.