22 Jun 2022 4:30 PM GMT
The alumni of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) have issued a statement condemning the university administration for initiating disciplinary proceedings against two female student facilitators appointed under its Code to Combat Sexual Harassment (SHARIC) for narrating a survivor's experience of sexual harassment by a current student of NLSIU. According to the...
The alumni of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) have issued a statement condemning the university administration for initiating disciplinary proceedings against two female student facilitators appointed under its Code to Combat Sexual Harassment (SHARIC) for narrating a survivor's experience of sexual harassment by a current student of NLSIU.
According to the statement issued, the narration of the incident of sexual harassment took place over email, as well as on a private Facebook group with students from the University pursuant to a request made by the survivor in question. The facilitators shared details regarding this instance of sexual harassment upon being requested to do so by the survivor in question. As this survivor was not a student at NLSIU, she was unable to share details regarding the instance of sexual harassment on these platforms, herself.
As per the alumni statement, there was no breach of confidentiality by the student facilitators as there were no ongoing proceedings being conducted by the Sexual Harassment Inquiry Committee under the Code to Combat Sexual Harassment (SHARIC).
As per the statement, the NLSIU administration had found the concerned student facilitators guilty of "major misconduct" under its disciplinary rules and had directed them to either issue a public apology or pay a significant monetary fine.
The student facilitators decided not to apologise as that may have had the effect of stifling the voices of any peers who wished to share their own stories of sexual harassment or violence at the hands of other students in NLSIU and thus chose to pay the monetary fine imposed upon them. They were subsequently removed from all positions of responsibility, including their positions as student facilitators under NLSIU's SHARIC Code.
Pertinently, the statement alleges that the concerned student facilitators have been barred from sharing the order of the University's Disciplinary matters Advisory Review and Investigation Committee (DARIC Committee) thereby violating principles of natural justice.
"As alumni of NLSIU, we commend the courageous and principled stance taken by the student facilitators. Further, we unequivocally condemn NLSIU's finding that the student facilitators are guilty of "major misconduct". It has also come to our attention that the student facilitators have been barred from sharing the order of the DARIC committee, so we are unable to even peruse the logic and reasoning of the committee. This means that the proceedings are shrouded in secrecy, and the principles of natural justice are not being followed, which is deeply unfair", the statement reads.
Opining that the conduct of the university administration would have a chilling effect on the voices of other survivors and promote further victimisation, the statement stated,
"The University, much like the society it is a part of, has witnessed grave instances of sexual violence in the past. It is well known that victims of sexual harassment (who are most often women) find it difficult to speak about their experiences, or take formal or legal action against the perpetrator. NLSIU ought not to perpetuate those difficulties or prevent survivors from sharing their experiences with the NLSIU community. More importantly, NLSIU must not punish student facilitators acting at the request of, or on behalf of survivors of sexual harassment, as this amounts to "victimization" as per the definition in NLSIU's own SHARIC Code. A decision such as the current one will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the voices of other survivors, present and future, and signal to them that NLSIU wishes for them to remain silent in the face of sexual and gender-based violence."
The alumni further noted that when the #MeToo movement had swept across the NLSIU campus in 2018, dozens of victims of sexual harassment (who were largely women) had shared their experiences over internal email, as well as on the same Facebook group where details regarding the present instance were posted.
"If NLSIU's decision in the instant case were to be applied evenly, it is likely that those dozens of students would similarly be found guilty of "major misconduct" under the University's rules. It bears emphasizing once again that no student ought to be punished for speaking about sexual harassment and violence, as well as those who perpetrate it", it was highlighted further.
The statement further underscored that universities ought to encourage survivors to access redressal systems and provide them with any and all support required to do so. It also emphasised that the NLSIU administration must make every effort to comply with its obligations under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in both letter and spirit.
The alumni thus sought the following from the administration:
1. Make the DARIC Committee's order public, with redaction of names and other details where appropriate.
2. Reverse the finding that the student facilitators in question are guilty of "major misconduct".
3. Reconsider its decision on survivors sharing personal accounts of sexual violence, the acts of which would themselves attract penalties under NLSIU's Code to Combat Sexual Harassment.
4. Implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in both letter and spirit.
5. Refrain from punishing and penalizing survivors of sexual harassment and those who stand by them.
The statement has been endorsed by nearly 200 alumni.