Social Issues

We Want Justice! : Students of SRM Demand Safety For The Girls in the Hostel

Victim blaming is the common go-to, and this just proves that in 2018, we’ve still got a long way to go before rape culture is finally a thing of the past.

“WE WANT JUSTICE!” These were the words echoing in SRM University Kattangulathur late in the evening of 22nd November, chanted in unison by the students of that college. It was the eve of their semester exam, but nothing was more important to them at the time than holding the authorities responsible for the appalling incident that occurred earlier that day.

At around 3 PM, a second-year undergraduate student entered her hostel’s lift to get to her room. In the lift, there was a male worker who unzipped his pants and started masturbating in front of her. When the girl attempted to run out of the lift, the man blocked her path. When she did finally run out of the lift, she screamed and informed the warden, hoping to file a complaint at the hostel reception. When the warden was informed about the incident, he asked the girl to write a letter to access the CCTV footage in order to identify the man. There were no CCTV cameras in the lift, however, the CCTV camera right outside the lift was used to identify the man.

However, no action was taken then.

At 7 PM, when the students of the hostel went to the reception to demand action, they were met with disgusting and, unfortunately, common responses. They were told that these things happen because they were dressed in “inappropriate short clothes” and because they smoke and drink. The authorities, however, did nothing to ensure that the girls in the hostel felt safe. There were strong undertones of victim shaming in the way the authorities were answering the students. One of the people in the hostel management allegedly said that these things will happen when North Indian girls live in a South Indian city.

Enraged by the lethargic and shameful handling of the situation by the authorities, the boys and girls from the hostel came out and started protesting in large numbers, demanding that the man gets apprehended and an official complaint gets filed, and most importantly, demanding that things change in the college.

“In the girl’s hostel, male workers come infrequently. There is no protection for the girls. They have installed CCTVs but most of them aren’t functional. A similar thing has happened before but they just took a letter from the girl and no action was taken. They silenced the issue. They tried to do it this time too but we won’t be silenced,” says a girl from the hostel who does not want to be named. When asked if any steps have been taken to protect the girls from sexual harassment and if there is any system to report such cases, she reveals: “The only option is reporting to the warden, who cares more about silencing the issue rather than the protection and safety of the girls.”

Initially, there was news that the perpetrator has been arrested but this was denied by the police, stating that no formal complaint had been made.

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