Why is JNU facing criticism over circular on sexual harassment?
The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has drawn criticism over a circular advising women on how to avoid sexual harassment. The circular—which was issued to notify about a counseling session on sexual harassment—said women are "supposed to know how to draw a tangible line between them and their male friends." The circular was strongly criticized by students' organizations.
- The circular was uploaded to notify a counseling session on sexual harassment on January 17, 2022.
- The particular remark by ICC is being considered demeaning to women as it blames victims' conduct for sexual harassment.
- Following the remark, students bodies and activists criticized the JNU administration for "victim-blaming."
- Students' bodies also demanded the restoration of the Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH).
The counseling aims to make girls and boys aware of "what consists of sexual harassment." Highlighting sexual harassment cases among close friends, the circular said, "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," it added.
In the circular, the ICC further said counseling on sexual harassment would be organized every month. Such counseling is given during the orientation program, and at the starting of each academic year. They need to refresh their knowledge about the same, time to time, it added. These counseling sessions would be in addition to its usual action of dealing with sexual harassment cases.
JNU Students' Union President Aishe Ghosh criticized the circular, saying it amounted to victim-shaming. "The ICC time and again in JNU has passed such regressive remarks or conducted itself in a way to moral police the survivor," Ghosh said. Such remarks give space to "harassment in such lines" and "will lead to becoming an unsafe space for women," she added.
The left-wing students' organization All India Students' Association (AISA) also said the circular exposed the "victim-blaming" attitude of the ICC. "This counseling session is a sham and will only lead to making JNU an unsafe space for women," it added.
Meanwhile, both Ghosh and AISA demanded the reinstatement of the Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) in the university. Notably, the JNU administration had replaced GSCASH with the ICC in September 2017 in its 269th executive council meeting. At that time, the move had sparked sharp reactions from student bodies, teachers' bodies, and women's rights organizations.