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8 Preventing and responding to sexual harassment

A student’s encounter with a sexual harassment incident in an institute can have a major effect on his or her self-image, self-esteem, and on his or her development later in life. In recent times, incidents of sexual harassment have occurred in government and private schools, colleges and universities like JV, JNU. In spite of various existing laws, this heinous crime is still increasing day by day. Girls are subjected to indecent comments or they often become victim of molestation or eve teasing in college premises.

Many people don’t even bother to comment or raise their voice against the incident because of social stigma is the slow redressal process. As a wise person said that “Precaution is better than cure” It is better to curb an indecent incident before they occur.

Here are some useful pointers for the educational organizations and the top management if they intend to ensure prevention of sexual harassment:

1. Internal Complaint Committee (ICC): Educational institute should form an internal complaintcommittee to look after the issues related to sexual harassment and molestation cases etc. An internal vigilance committee can be formed by selecting group of top management and representatives of the respective classes to ensure that student’s actual voice can be addressed to this committee. The names of ICC members should be kept confidential to avoid abuse of power or reluctance amongst students to complaint Actions on the recommendations made by ICC members should be taken by the institute seriously, whether the same relates to adopting measures to redress SH at educational institute or in regard to a complaint finding weather it is against a professor, student or dean.

2. Immediate action to be taken:Teachers/supervisors/student body representatives shall take prompt action (on their own) for any repeated sexual innuendo, obscene jokes and lewd remarks or whistling which is happening under their watch. One should not sit on information if tormenting matters to be taken into consideration. Remember, Self compliance is the best compliance. Even though today’s generation is liberal and bold but acts of sexual harassment are not accepted as part of social integration/culture by any person, be it a male or female.

3. Communication through informal communication: Faculties/supervisors should engage in an informal chat with the female of the organisation to understand if they are facing any such issues in the classes, campus or even outside campus. This can be done by formingsmall groups of 20-25 people for an open light hearted group discussion amongst the group of students.

4. Formulation of an effective policy: Have a soft, healthy, sound soothing environment of studying, counselling sessions can be provided. The victim must not feel alienated in case she faces such an atrocious incident of SH. Adoption of a clear and effective policy that is devoted to sexual harassment should be formulated, which should comprise of Definition of SH, Types of SH and Forms of SH, investigation proceedings. Action which can be taken by ICC, Complaint mechanism, etc.

5. Easy to reach: Dean, senior professors and psychology teachers (if any) should be in students reach for open or closed discussion sessions. Also, these personnel should be highly sensitised about intricacies of SH because they are the first point of contact for any student to confront about any SH incident.

6. Installing of Camera in the Premises: Installing cameras within the premises is also one of the most effective ways to curb sexual harassment cases in educational institute. This will stop the students from being a part of sexual harassment, making abusive comments and social mockery of the incident.

7. Get parents involved: Parental involvement is critical to long-term behaviour modification. When harassment occurs, parents of victims and perpetrators need to be informed of the details so that the emotional and developmental needs of both parties can be addressed. Family involvement and possibly outside counselling may be needed to avoid long-term emotional damage and to modify inappropriate behaviour. Ignoring the situation can often lead to a cycle of ongoing harassment and victimization, hence parents should support their children if any such situation arises and should come upfront reporting the case.

8. Creating awareness among students and Educate Sexual Harassment: The main aim is to sensitize individual to the methodology of the Sexual Harassment.Organization awareness sessions among students is another solution to curb sexual harassment in an educational institute. If students complaints of sexual harassment, proper protection from molester, counselling sessions support from the faculty is must.Small street playkind of workshops, posters, small education videos. etc. to be shared amongst students to create the awareness about the sexual harassment.

Lastly, monitoring on an overall basis of the institution is essentially needed. Students also need to actively participate in curbing SH activities at institute/campus/school. Support others, report incidents, spread awareness, Stand with each other should be the primary key points in mind of everyone from students to professor to dean.

Remember an education institute is the most important phase of a student life; even a small incident may ruin it.

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