(My agenda for the GSCASH elections, 2012)
The formation of the Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) has been an important achievement of the students movement in JNU. The vibrant students’ movement has contributed to the debate on sexual harassment in workplaces by extending the definition of the workplace to universities, schools and homes. Over the years, it has immensely contributed to maintaining a significant level of gender sensitivity and awareness on campus, and striven to protect the rights of all students and non-students, especially women who come from various socio-economic and cultural backgrounds in the country. The GSCASH has taken steps to address all forms of gender discrimination, including sexual harassment.
However, the lack of a JNUSU in the past four years has resulted in deteriorating levels of gender sensitivity and incidents of eve-teasing and harassment are on a rise. Besides, the lack of an effective security mechanism and unwillingness of the administration to implement proper measures has affected the safety and mobility of girl students. Today, as the campus is preparing itself for the GSCASH elections, it is important to reaffirm our pledge to carry forward the legacy of the GSCASH and address the numerous challenges that faces the students.
Structural changes in GSCASH
· An increase of fund allocations up to 3 lakhs per annum for all gender sensitization activities and completion of errands. Lack of funds has proven to be a major hindrance for the GSCASH in actively taking up initiatives. The Administration should pay the salaries of the employees of GSCASH.
· A permanent legal associate to provide advice/assistance for conducting some of the complicated cases which include; assault/sexual assault, domestic violence, and require legal/medical help. Without expert help, the GSCASH will not be able to conduct enquiries efficiently. The services of legal counselors and activists have to be sought to make an impartial enquiry.
· With regard to infrastructural facilities GSCASH needs a photocopy machine and preferably, an assistant for the job, because taking documents out of the office may lead to documents being leaked and confidentiality being hindered.
· Public discussion of the annual GSCASH report. Although, the GSCASH report is available for the perusal of all, it will be a healthy exercise to have a democratic discussion every year to enhance the functioning of the Committee.
Safety and Security concerns
· The University should improve its security, and make provisions for female guards to be deputed at night on campus.
· Helpline numbers to the CSO to be put up at bus stops, dhabas etc.
· Monitoring entry of outsiders with photos of people who have been issued out of bounds and warning notices at the main gate for the perusal of security guards and students.
· Automatic referral of complaints against outsiders to the GSCASH –especially when complainants request anonymity.
There exist a lot of myths regarding GSCASH, and false notions of those who seek help from the Committee. It is necessary to impart information to check this unhealthy trend.
· There should be a GSCASH desk at Admission Assistance in the beginning of the academic year. This will be useful for new students and their families to be familiar with the functioning and relevance of GSCASH.
· The GSCASH should call for volunteers at the beginning of every semester. This can ensure the provision of spreading information about GSCASH through them in all centres and hostels.
· Activating and installing suggestion boxes throughout the campus. To ensure extensive and inclusive participation in GSCASH, these suggestion boxes will form a link between students and representatives.
· Handouts to all students with useful information with helpline numbers for domestic violence, eve teasing, filing complaints, the CSO, the guard at the North Gate, phone numbers of student representatives, maps to the GSCASH office, websites of Annual reports and the GSCASH page in the JNU website.
· Annual GSCASH programme. At the end of every year, GSCASH should conduct a week long programme, including film screenings, workshops and public meetings.
Gender Sensitisation is an integral part of the functioning of GSCASH, to educate students about gender issues and debates, and dispel stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards women.
· Gender workshops by the GSCASH and in coordination with the Women’s Studies Programme. Workshop for faculty, staff and especially for GSCASH members have to be held regularly, as they need to conduct enquiries with a complete understanding of gender/sensitization
· Conducting a GSCASH orientation programme at the time of admission for every school/ centre. This will help familiarize students with the rules and provisions of GSCASH.
· A Gender survey will be carried out to assess explicit and implicit forms of gender discrimination –Later, a sensitisation drive in line with the results of the Gender survey, ranging from public meetings to discussion of reports shall be held.
· Programmes regarding choice marriages, dowry, harassment, discrimination, caste violence, exploitation in workplaces and homes and alternate sexualities will have to be organised regularly, to link campus level issues with larger social and political concerns. No campus issue can be viewed in isolation.
Health and hygiene
· Tie ups with University Health Centre for organising public health awareness camps/programmes/campaigns for students and non students on anemia, calcium deficiency, sexual and reproductive health, contraception and abortion. This will include the dissemination of basic information a address pressing health concerns, especially among women.
· With girl students comprising more than fifty percent of the student population, it is imperative that the administration provide a full time gynecologist in the health centre to address the specific health problems faced by them.
· Lack of proper sanitation has been a major problem in a university that claims to be ‘world class’. Apart from ensuring hygienic bathrooms, provision of soap and other essentials need to be made.
· Easier access to sanitary napkins and condoms. Discussion on safe sex and contraception will remain incomplete as long as the University does not ensure proper mechanisms. The condom dispensing machine that was earlier functioning in the campus premises will have to be in working condition again. Similarly, sanitary napkin dispensers have to be installed in centre/school bathrooms, which will be helpful for girl students in times of emergency.