The safety and security of students is of utmost importance in any educational institution, and it seems that this issue has come to the forefront with recent incidents at Gargi College in New Delhi, India. The college had organized its annual cultural fest, Reverie 2023, but it was marred by reports of harassment and molestation of female students. In response, a group of students has decided to boycott the fest and are calling attention to the onus of security on every individual.
Recent incidents of the boys from other colleges jumped the wall and gatecrashed the event, according to comments heard from the students. They proceeded to harass and molest female students, even after college authorities had widespread information stating that only those with valid college ID cards would be allowed entry. Many have criticized the college’s administration for not providing adequate security measures and failing to respond effectively to the harassment.
In response, a group of students has decided to boycott the fest at Gargi College and have been actively campaigning on social media to bring attention to the issue. They are asserting that the burden of ensuring one’s security and well-being falls on every individual, and that the college cannot be held solely responsible for taking care of everyone’s safety. The experiences targeting girls and women at the festival have exposed the vulnerability that they always face-eve teasing, sexual harassment and violence against women.
Their views raise important questions about whose responsibility it is to ensure the security of individuals when they are in a public space. It is indeed true that each individual must take steps to protect themselves from potential harm, including assessing risks and adopting appropriate precautions.
However, that does not absolve the college from the responsibility of providing a safe environment. Security and surveillance measures, employing guards or policemen to be present to prevent unauthorized entry, are some of the measures that must be taken.
Security measures do not stop at providing a physically safe environment but can also promote creating awareness among the students, particularly freshman girls, about their rights and actions which may put them at risk. Such information should be included in induction programs and disseminated across the campus.
Students should also receive training on how to identify and report inappropriate behaviour, as well as information on where to seek help.
Above all, there needs to be an open approach to discussing the issues of harassment and assault, particularly those targeting women in a public space, rather than shying away from talking about it. This would involve supporting and empowering victims to speak out, seeking justice and legal recourse in appropriate cases, whilst also attempting to prevent such incidents.
It is alarming to see the statistics showing how small the fraction of premeditated sexual crime cases is brought to judicial proceedings in India. If we look a little more closely, the statistics drop even further when the victim is from a lower socio-economic background. Immediate action and adequate judicial support in these cases will definitely act as a deterrent for potential offenders.
What this incident highlights, though, is the need for all members of society to play their part in ensuring safety and security. The government is responsible for enforcing laws protecting citizens, including laws concerning harassment and assault. Colleges and schools have a role to play in creating a safe environment that fosters the learning and growth of its students.
Finally, individuals are responsible for taking care of themselves, while also being mindful of the wider issues of social behaviour.
It is important for the Gargi College administration to take responsibility, to both condemn the behaviour of the perpetrators and take steps to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. The students’ protest serve as a wake-up call to college authorities and society as a whole, and emphasizes on spreading awareness for gender-based violence and discussing ways to make environments safe for all persons involved.
In the end, the onus of security is indeed on each one of us. It is a collective responsibility that requires collaboration and coordination among all stakeholders to effectively address and combat such incidents from happening in the future. Students, college authorities and government together must unite to work for the developing awareness and strategies for the safety of women, and other marginalized communities alike, who tend to be targeted in public spaces. It is high time to recognize that acceptance, protection, and improvement are integral to achieving a safer society for everyone.
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