New Delhi: The National Commission for Women (NCW) has held Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala, guilty of gender discrimination. The three-member fact-finding team was chaired by Chandramukhi Devi, and comprised two other members, Soso Shazia and Advocate Nisha Rishi.
A complaint was filed with the NCW by students of RGNUL on March 19, alleging gender-based discrimination prevalent in the campus. A female student from RGNUL told Newsclick on the condition of anonymity, “We had to file the complaint because of the discriminatory rules for the students. The hostel in-times for male and female students are different. The teachers often make sexist and derogatory comments towards women. The wardens are very rude, and often ask unwelcome questions. Even the gynaecologist in the campus indulges in derogatory behaviour, trying to shame the girls by making remarks about their character.”
The in-time for the female students in the hostels is different from the male students, as a result of which women hostellers can only access the library till 9 p.m whereas male students are allowed to access the library till 1 a.m. Women hostellers are not even allowed to step out of their rooms, into the corridor, after 11 p.m.
After the complaint was filed on March 19, the fact-finding team visited the campus on March 20. The team has pointed out several issues, including absence of redressal mechanisms for student grievances, and lack of awareness regarding the legal remedies available in terms of any complaint relating to sexual harassment, including the mechanism of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
Also Read: Patiala Law University Students Protest Over Unlawful Suspension of 6 Students
The NCW team observed, “The students as well as teachers were not aware of the legal remedies available in terms of any complaint relating to sexual harassment at workplace.”
On the day of the NCW team’s visit, Hostel Warden Shilpa Jain withdrew from the RGNUL ICC, when she found out about the complaints made by students against her. The team interacted with 40 female students of the university and found that the warden frequently behaved in a dictatorial manner. She had often threatened the girls of dire consequences if they did not stick to her rules.
During the NCW team’s interaction with the female students, several issues were pointed out. The students said that they were pressured to stay back in their rooms and their parents were intimidated about even the smallest of issues. They said that a leave register was maintained only for female students, and even their leave passes were not signed on time. They also alleged that the gynaecologist appointed by the university asked them questions about their physical relationships with boys. Most importantly, they added, the complaints of sexual harassment filed by the students were not dealt with by the university administration.
The NCW report reportedly observed that the right to privacy of students was being infringed by the university administration, and the faculty was quite rude to the students and had often passed unwelcome remarks towards female students. It also noted that the university administration did not hold any student-teacher interaction programmes, where students could share their problems.
The NCW has made several recommendations to improve the situation in the university, urging the administration to be more sensitive on gender issues, and to make sure that the rules for male and female students are similar at all levels. The administration has been advised to maintain a proper ICC, and to ensure that it functions properly, and also formulate a proper grievance redressal cell. It has also recommended that a professional counsellor be appointed by the university to help the students understand their rights.
Welcoming the NCW report, the students of said in a statement, “The students thank the Hon’ble National Commission for Women for their report. This was something that should have been done long back but with the amount of arbitrary pressure and power the administration imposes of students made it an impossible exercise till we all decided we have had enough of his tyranny.”
The statement added, “As stated in our complaint, we hold the authorities morally liable since the conduct of all persons mentioned in the NCW complaint was an open secret on the entire campus.”
The NCW report ended with the statement, “Every citizen has a right to live with dignity and self-respect and it must be ensured at every stage of life. The university administration must ensure that as well.”