ICC presiding officer Vibha Tandon, however, stressed that self-defence training was an important part of national policy.
New Delhi: A controversy over the disbanding of a gender cell has taken a new turn in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), with a section of women students questioning self-defence training sessions started by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) set up by the varsity administration.
The training sessions, the first initiative of the ICC, formed after the disbanding of the gender sensitive committee against sexual harassment (GSCASH) have kicked up an outcry. Some students pointed out such sessions put the onus on women to protect themselves, an approach that conflicted with that of GSCASH, which focused on gender sensitisation with workshops, films and meetings.
JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Geeta Kumari, who was also a student representative to GSCASH in 2015, said though it was important to learn martial arts, anti-sexual harassment bodies should focus on gender sensitisation initiatives.
“A woman should be left undisturbed not because she knows karate, but out of regard to her freedom and choice,” she said.
Teachers’ union president Ayesha Kidwai stressed such sessions did not address harassment per se. “Can a woman student give a karate chop to her PhD supervisor when he touches her inappropriately? Will the university not immediately punish her if she did,” Ms Kidwai asked.
The ICC, set up by the university administration replacing GSCASH amid opposition from many sections, began its 10-day self-defence training in collaboration with the Delhi police on October 23.
A student Swati Simha, who boycotted the training, said, “Our physical prowess can’t be a mechanism to fight for gender justice. By participating in such events, we don’t want to legitimise victim blaming,” she said. ICC presiding officer Vibha Tandon, however, stressed that self-defence training was an important part of national policy.
“I don’t think doing anything positive for women is wrong. We would also be conducting gender sensitisation programmes shortly,” Ms Tandon said. However, an ICC member said, “A girl complained about a security guard staring at her while she was practising yoga.”
The university has been protesting against the JNU and University Grants Commission demanding the reinstatement of GSCASH.