Speaking on “Gender and Democratization of Higher Education” eminent feminist scholar Mary E. John emphasized on the implementation of the Saksham Committee Guidelines by all universities. “The University Grants Commission (UGC) has sent a letter to all the universities asking them to implement the Saksham Guidelines and the universities should be adopting them” said the Senior Fellow at Centre of Women Development Studies.
The Saksham Committee was set up by the UGC to recommend measures on gender sensitization and safety of women on university campus and the report by the committee was released in December 2013. The report had emphasized that “campus safety policies should not result in securitization, over monitoring or policing or curtailing the freedom of movement, especially for women” and has warned against the infantilizing of women through curfews and other discriminatory rules for women hostellers.
Prof. John who was a member of the UGC appointed committee was speaking on the occasion of Second Sarojini Naidu Memorial Lecture organized by Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women Studies on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
She also asserted that sexual harassment in the campuses should not be taken lightly and also talked about the significance of gender sensitization and a properly functioning anti-sexual harassment committee. She expressed her concerns about the increasing instances of moral policing in the name of safety for women in the campuses like discriminatory hostel rules and denial of access to basic academic amenities like libraries after a particular time and lauded the various women students initiatives like Pinjra Tod for their efforts to break away the cages curtailing freedom for women.
“We have seen near parity in terms of enrollment among women students at a time of galloping expansion in higher education, coupled with growing privatization”, said Prof John. She however raised concerns on the democratic spaces in these institutes. She also emphasized on the fact that education probably is the only institution where near parity between both the gender can be seen with 46% women in education today and it indeed is a very significant space for women to assert and redefine themselves. She then talked about the recent upsurge of students’ movements, taking forth women centric issues in the campuses throughout India. Professor John calls it a “Silent Revolution” as it has hardly garnered any public attention.