The University Grants Commission (UGC) has sought details, from the heads of universities and other higher educational institutions, of the institutional arrangements in place for the safety of women and mechanisms to address complaints of sexual harassment in campuses.

In a letter to Vice Chancellors and principals, UGC chairperson Ved Prakash has sought to know whether the institutions have a policy and procedure in place to deal with complaints of sexual harassment on campuses. This information is included in a set of questions prepared by the Commission aimed at identifying any inadequacies in existing procedures and practices to address the concerns of women and youth in general.

One of the questions asked is ‘whether there are different timings for boys and girls to return to their hostels’ while another question is ‘what are the differences in the rules for each?’ For example the number of ‘late nights’ and ‘night outs’ allowed.

The queries follow the UGC’s decision last month to set up a task force, after the Delhi gang-rape incident, to recommend measures to ensure the safety of women and youth, and programmes for gender sensitisation on campuses across the country.

Pointing out that the task force is not a grievance redressal mechanism, the letter says the focus, at this stage is to elicit views and suggestions that would help eradicate the menace of gender-based violence on campuses, root out cultures of impunity and nurture practices that mainstream gender sensitisation as an essential and integral part of the teaching-learning practices.

“The task force would like to visit campuses to interact with you and also students, faculty and staff to learn how best to facilitate best practices and also take on board suggestions for the improvement of existing mechanisms of redressal,” Mr. Prakash has said in his letter.

The purpose of this questionnaire, he says, is to help the UGC in its mandate to further the cause of equity in higher education.

Institutes have also been asked to provide information on measures to ensure that women students have equal access to campus facilities such as library and laboratories. The campuses have also been asked to furnish details about gender-related courses offered on campus, if any.

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