'Girls must draw line': JNU's circular triggers row

'Girls should know how to draw line': JNU's circular on sexual harassment triggers row

Under the subhead 'why is the counselling session required', the circular said that it will make students aware of what consists of sexual harassment

A view of JNU. Credit: DH File Photo

Amid the rise in a number of sexual harassment complaints from the university, Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) took the initiative to organise sexual harassment counselling sessions. However, JNU’s internal complaints committee’s circular (ICC) on the matter was found to be ‘misogynistic’ by many.

The circular from ICC says that girls are "supposed to know how to draw a tangible line between them and their male friends”. 

ICC has uploaded the circular on the varsity's website saying that it will organise a counselling session on sexual harassment on January 17. It also said that such sessions will be organised on a monthly basis.

Under the subhead "why is the counselling session required," the circular said that it will make students aware of what consists of sexual harassment.

"ICC came across a number of cases where sexual harassment takes place among close friends. Boys generally cross (sometimes advertently, sometimes inadvertently) the thin line between friendship's bantering and sexual harassment. Girls suppose to know how to draw a tangible line (between them and their male friends) to avoid any such harassments (sic)," the circular read.

When the ICC Presiding Officer Punam Kumari was asked by The Indian Express on the matter, she said, “We get several complaints where sexual harassment cases take place between men and women who are close friends. They touch each other, hug each other. But the moment women feel that they don’t feel comfortable about this, they should state this clearly to their male friend. Till the time they don’t speak, and if they keep it to themselves, then it doesn’t work. If he continues to do it despite being told, then the ICC is there.”

Listing out the benefits of these sessions, the varsity said that "the number of sexual harassment cases will be reduced for sure" and "dissipate any confusion related to sexual harassment”.

“It is important for both boys and girls to know where the line has to be drawn… Girls also need to say it before the matter goes out of hand if they don’t like it (being touched or hugged). These things have to be conveyed clearly. Otherwise, how will the person know what you want? These are small things which we will tell them about along with all the rules and regulations of ICC,” Kumari told the publication.

"The ICC in JNU makes a blatant victim-blaming remark where it asks 'women to draw a tangible line to not get harassed by their male members'. The ICC time and again in JNU has passed such regressive remarks or conducted itself in a way to moral police the survivor," JNU Students' Union president Aishe Ghosh said in a statement.

"Such a remark creates a space where harassment in such lines will become rampant and will lead to becoming an unsafe space for women," Ghosh said.

The JNU administration replaced the Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) with the ICC in September 2017 in its 269th executive council meeting, a move which was extensively criticised by student and teacher bodies, apart from women's rights organisations.

(With agency input.)

Check out the latest videos from DH:

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox