The Gender Circle yesterday released the results of its survey on sexual harassment in the area outside campus. This coincided with the Student Welfare Committee’s announcement that certain steps would be taken in order to ensure student safety just outside the campus gates, specifically in the stretch from the metro station to the Main Gate.
The SWC sent out an email detailing the facilities that would now be available to female students, including the right to use the college shuttle to pick them up from the metro station and drop them to the Main Gate between 5 PM and 10 PM, as well as the right to ask a guard to accompany them to and from the metro station at any point of time during the day. While the SWC’s initiative is laudable, these measures alone will not suffice to ensure the safety of the students on campus.
Sexual harassment just outside the campus gates is a major issue for female students, and most incidents of this harassment occur on two stretches – firstly, the distance between the front gate and the back gate, and secondly, near the mall. While the latter is something that the college administration cannot control, the former is certainly within their capabilities. There is a simple solution towards eliminating sexual harassment on the stretch between the Main Gate and the Back Gate: open the Back Gate and make it accessible to all students.
There have been many complaints about sexual harassment, including a very recent public complaint by Arushi Dua of the second year, who said that she and her friends were followed by four men in a car while returning from the Eros Metro Mall, and further, were denied entry from the back gate upon reaching there. This is not an isolated incident. As our recent article shows, Shuchita Goel and her friend were followed by a masturbating man in a car just outside college.
Back in my first year, I was once walking alone at 1 PM in the afternoon, when, barely a hundred meters from the main gate, I was approached by two men in a Santro who asked me if I wanted to get inside and “take a ride”. When I ignored them, they followed me all the way to the metro station. Later that semester, I was walking back from the metro station when a man outside the Mall yelled in my general direction and then, when I looked at him, began frantically thrusting his pelvis towards me.
There are many more. One girl was walking in the stretch between the traffic signal and the Back Gate when a guy drove up in a bike beside her and smacked her butt before driving off. The same student also once encountered a man in that stretch who pulled up next to her and said “I would like to fuck you”, and another man who said “gaand mein lena hai?”. Others have been followed by guys on bikes or in cars from the mall back to the front gate, often accompanied by whistling and lewd comments. Yet another student, back in first year, was walking back to college when several men pulled up in a car next to her and tried to pull her inside.
Many of the students on campus have encountered such harassment, and quite a lot of this harassment has happened on the stretch between the Main Gate and the Back Gate. Instead of asking the guards to accompany each individual group of students – which is quite an impossible feat, given that there may be several groups that want to leave in quick succession, and unless as many guards are available to accompany them, they will have to wait for the guard to come back. The guard will also have to make several such trips, which is bound to be exhausting and frustrating – is it not better to simply open the Back Gate and thus cut out part of the area where such harassment takes place entirely? Further, the idea behind asking the guards to accompany the students is faulty – it is based on the patriarchal notion of a man accompanying a woman in order to prevent any harm from coming to her. Besides that, several students have also faced harassment while accompanied by male students, as evidenced by the case of one student who was walking with a male friend when several men pulled up next to her, leaned out of the car’s windows, and began to scream “Maal! Maal! Maal!”
In an ideal world, we would be able to confront all of these harassers and prevent them from committing such acts again. I myself have several questions for them – the first of which is asking them what twisted logic tells them that wagging their genitals in my general direction is productive or acceptable in any sense whatsoever. But that isn’t always possible. While I’m sure that not everyone feels this way, being followed by two men in a car, especially while alone, was a terrifying experience for me. There is no way that I could have turned around and asked them to leave me alone, or expressed my anger in any way. There is a reason that women being harassed are often advised to simply ignore the harassment instead of confronting it, and that is that acknowledging the harassment can sometimes simply be too dangerous. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right, but that’s what happens in real life.
So rather than asking men to accompany women, we should instead focus on making spaces more safe for women. By eliminating a stretch where sexual harassment often takes place, we move to a situation where the women students of this college feel more secure once they leave campus. And therefore, while I appreciate the fact that the SWC has noted this concern of the student body, and further, has implemented certain measures designed to ensure the safety of the female students, I believe that the first step in this direction can only be taken by opening the Back Gate to all members of the student body. All other measures must be designed to supplement this.
The results of the Gender Circle survey are exhibited below. The survey was conducted among all the female students on campus.
|Have you been sexually harassed while in the streets bordering the university campus, or while traveling to and from the Dwarka Sector 14 Metro Station?||Number of persons||%|
|Any other action||18||14.29%|
|At what time did such harassment occur?||Number||%|
|How many times has this happened to you since you joined the university?||Number||%|
|2 to 5 times||63||50.00%|
|6 times or more||12||9.52%|
|Do you think that getting the back-gate opened would make you feel safer?||Number||%|
|Do you feel unsafe while in the area around campus, or while walking/ taking a rickshaw to the Dwarka Sector 14 Metro Station?||Number||%|
|Characteristics of Sample|