Over the past two week, #MeToo has bared some powerful men in Indian media and entertainment industry over alleged sexual misconduct, assault and harassment, however it is important to look at, a crowd sourced List of Sexual Harassment Accused (LoSha) made public exactly a year ago in October 2017, when the #MeToo campaign actually kicked off in India. The List had names of noted academics and students from the educational institutes in India and abroad. Since then students, junior researchers and teaching assistants have struggled to name the perpetrators of sexual harassment in the educational institutes.
As this movement is engulfing India’s film industry, media, academia and politics, the students at National Law University (NLU) Delhi are struggling to file complaints and come out openly against the alleged sexual perpetrators. Recently a NLU Delhi alumnus named two male students from her time at NLU Delhi, She further added that the institute has been “sheltering those who’ve committed harassment and pretending like it doesn’t exist”.
The executionary flaws while addressing the complaints of sexual harrasement is the biggest deterrent for students while ‘coming out’ with their grievances. There are other issues too, like administrative bodies curbing their freedom by enforcing curfews in the women’s hostels and many a times the parental pressures of ‘honour’ of the families being defiled. As a result women students are left with very little options as far as addressing the issues of sexual harrasements are concerned.
One of the students (who doesn’t wish to be named) of the same institute laments, “when women make complaints, they are portrayed as ‘hysterical’. The patriarchal mindsets within the investigatory bodies are unable to separate ‘personal disputes’ from sexual harrasement. They don’t understand how a consentual relationship too can end up becoming an abusive and non-consensual ending up in harrassement of women.”
Another former student from NLU Delhi who was allegedly accused of sexual harassment while still at the institute, went on to get recommendation for a prestigious scholarship to School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. A group of women from SOAS too came out with allegations of harassment, stalking and intimidation against the same guy.
Women students constantly face misogynist remarks, victim blaming and other forms of coercions while at campus and outside. The everyday experience of sexual harassment and coercion as a reality and a threat helps shape women’s experiences of learning and this is intensified through constant dehumanization. Sexual coercion is not just a product of gendered inequality, but it helps shape inequality and drive it into people’s bodies and minds. The fact that premier law institutes like NLU Delhi where future lawmakers’ careers are shaped, are facing the deep rot of patriarchal and colonial notions of protection and purity as far as women are concerned, in many ways explains the larger problem of harassment faced by women in the work places. Same men equipped with degrees work for ‘reputed’ law firms and judiciary thereby leaving women with very little choice but seek ‘justice’ outside the legal framework.
Rutuja Deshmukh is an independent journalist and features writer, based out of Pune and Bhopal, MP. She writes on issues of Cinema, Gender, Caste, De-notified Tribes, and Culture at the intersection of Neo-liberalism. She has a MA degree in South Asian Area Studies from SOAS, University of London.