Varsity fails to deal firmly with sexual harassment cases

Panel set up to fight harassment seeks punitive powers

The 94-year old University of Mysore, which has been embroiled in controversy for the alleged violation of rules in recruitment, is now being blamed for not initiating “punitive” action against those found guilty by the Complaint Committee Against Sexual Harassment.

The committee was set up in the university in 2005 to comply with the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court relating to sexual harassment of women at the workplace. C. Sarvamangala was its first chairperson.

Although twenty-five complaints have been registered with the committee, the Syndicate has not taken punitive action in even a single case, and those found guilty by the committee are being let off with “mild warnings” and an entry in the service register.

A professor who was transferred on the charge of sexual harassment recently returned to his parent department.

Creating insecurity

Such developments and the authorities' apathy in initiating punitive action against the guilty will create a sense of insecurity among the women workers and they wouldn't bother to register their complaints, said chairperson of the committee Yashodhara.

Though women are facing sexual harassment in the university, very few muster the courage to register a complaint. “If the university protects those who are found guilty by letting them off with a mild warning, who would dare register a complaint,” she asked.

Prof. Sarvamangala dealt with 18 complaints in her tenure of five years, and now the committee headed by Prof. Yashodhara has received seven complaints so far.

According to the court guidelines, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome physical contact or advances; demands or requests for sexual favours; sexually coloured remarks, display of pornography and other unwelcome, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature, Prof. Yashodhara noted.

As many women are not aware that such a committee exists, and some don't want to complain because of the stigma attached to sexual harassment, there are few complaints, she said.

Penalising power

Underlining the need for extending punitive power to the committee, she said that it receives complaints and submits a report to the university after an inquiry. Initiating action against the guilty is left to the discretion of the Syndicate, she said.

Letting them know

The committee is doing its best to create awareness among women in colleges and institutions that come under the university's jurisdiction by distributing brochures and pamphlets and working hard to form committees in the colleges. “However, it is difficult to motivate women to register complaints unless the university takes the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace seriously and punishes the guilty,” she observed.

The Hindu was unable to reach the Vice-Chancellor for his comments.

  • Twenty-five complaints have been registered with the committee
  • ‘Authorities' apathy in initiating punitive action will create a sense of insecurity among women'

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