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#MeToo floodgates open at NLU Delhi kicking off inquiry • Stephens bans NLUD male debaters for ‘harassment culture’, ‘toxic masculinity’

NLU Delhi women rise up about sex harassment on campus
NLU Delhi women rise up about sex harassment on campus

NLU Delhi’s entire male student population has been blacklisted from debates at St Stephens, Delhi University, as several female students have come forward on social media to recount sexual harassment stories, following social media posts by students naming harassers that went viral.

The St Stephens debating society posted on Facebook yesterday:

There have been allegations of sexual harassment against [a male Stephens student], who was our chief adjudicator, and [a male NLU Delhi student], who was a participant of the tournament debating as the pro in the team NLUD-[...], that won the tournament. Since the end of the tournament, various bold women from National Law University, Delhi (to which both of them belong) have come out and told accounts of sexual harassment that we choose to believe until we have conclusive evidence to believe otherwise.

Vice chancellor (VC) Prof Ranbir Singh told us that the student complaints and the St Stephens ban had come to his knowledge only today, following which the law school has formed an inquiry committee.

He said that he was currently meeting with this committee to decide the course of action from here on.

Update 23:12: Singh had also sent an email to all batches and faculty earlier today stating: “I have been made aware of the emerging accounts of sexual harassment within the NLUD community. Sexual harassment violates the most fundamental and cherished values that the University stands for. It also poses a serious challenge to our commitment to create an educational space and culture based on dignity, equal access, and mutual respect for all. I am therefore deeply concerned by these accounts and am taking the following measures as preliminary steps in responding institutionally to the issues that have arisen.” Singh said that mental health professionals with expertise in counseling survivors of sexual violence would be appointed. Several faculty members were also deputed to be available for students to talk to about sexual harassment, “24/7”.

Singh added that these were just “preliminary and immediate measures”, and that “we need to develop meaningful and lasting responses to sexual violence on campus. I am therefore inviting suggestions about possible measures that the institution can take in this regard. If any student has any concern or suggestion, I strongly encourage you to get in touch with me directly.”

Further action

The debating society added in that post:

Both these men, [...] and [...] stand blacklisted from the St. Stephens Debating Society Tournaments, in any capacity, henceforth. We are deeply upset by, and believe we need to take action against, what seems like a culture of harassment and toxic masculinity in the Debating Society of National Law University, Delhi.

Accordingly, we have decided that only women from NLUD would be provided the opportunities to debate and adjudicate at 71st Mukarji Memorial Debate 2019, and the 7th ProAm Debate 2019.

Our move to only allow female participants is to remind institutions that they have the responsibility to their female members as much as the rest of the members in the circuit to protect them from predatory behaviour.

St Stephens would also be writing to NLU Delhi’s debating society to ask them to return the trophies won by the team, and will be blackening out the names of the two men from the competition, according to that post.

Me Too

Update 19:58: We are for the time being removing major direct quotes from the public Facebook posts and paraphrasing these instead.

Clarification 23:30: For the avoidance of doubt, since publication, several of the authors of the below accounts have requested us not to publish their accounts and to unpublish this article. We can not unpublish the entire story due to the Stephens decision and the institutional response. However, we have further condensed our coverage of the original Facebook posts.

Preceding the Stephens post, several women studying at NLU Delhi posted to Facebook about their own experiences of getting molested, grabbed, groped and harassed by certain male students at the law school, whom they couldn’t report earlier out of fear of disbelief or the accused student’s clout and other factors amounting to victim blaming.

One female student, writing about an alleged harasser outed in another Facebook post, though she said that she wished that she would have had the courage earlier to speak out about it. She also said she was proud of the complainant, thanking her. “And to all those who wonder why women don’t file complaints, maybe here’s your answer?" she added.

Another student named one “senior” at the law school in her post, “otherwise a posterchild of feminist values”, who had allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Another separate allegation was made against a named senior male student and recounted how he had allegedly forced himself on her after lack of clear consent at a previous event on campus.

A separate allegation was made against a third male student, describing that after the assault she was worried about how if she had complained about the incident it could have resulted in victim blaming.

A culture of sexism and misogyny?

One recent NLU Delhi alumnus posted this week and named two male students from her time at NLU Delhi, adding that the college has been “sheltering those who’ve committed harassment and pretending like it doesn’t exist”.

She added in her Facebook post that NLU Delhi’s internal complaints committee was “terrible”, making life at college very difficult for at least one female student.

Second, she said, two alleged harassers had a lot of “social capital”, because they were good looking, and also because they played sports and were therefore “protected”.

She noted that she didn’t regret filing a complaint and a victim-blaming and slut-shaming mentality would have most likely resulted in the perpetrators getting off.

This is not the first time sexual harassment at NLU Delhi and other law schools has reared its head. In 2015, before the #MeToo movement got international attention, an NLU Delhi student had written an article in the student magazine outing the college’s harassment culture.

At NLSIU Bangalore, there have been at least two reported incidences of sexual harassment, which have taken a long time for students to take action over, resting in alumni getting involved.

In 2016, following an open letter alleging sexual abuse at Nalsar Hyderabad, the administration had vowed to create a safe space at the college.

Last year, two JGLS Sonepat students were sentenced to 20 years in jail for raping a fellow student in 2015, though they were freed after only four months in jail by the Supreme Court pending their appeal.

Editor’s note: Due to the number of complaints and in line with our usual policy in covering students, we have not named accusers and alleged harassers in this post.

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