Interview with the Chairperson of the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee, Prof. Sandhya S. Visweswariah
1) What is your prime focus as the Chairperson of the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee?
The focus can only be that we wish to ensure that everyone on campus feels safe and are not subject to any kind of sexual harassment at the workplace.
2) How frequently do you receive complaints pertaining to eve-teasing, harassment, etc.? When you receive a complaint, what actions do you take?
Not so frequently, and actions that are taken depend on the nature of the complaint. There are no generalizations one can provide except that all complaints are discussed in the committee and with the person who has been affected. Subsequent to this, we decide on a suitable course of action.
There may be more incidences that occur than we get to know about, because people do not always come forward to lodge a complaint. We urge people who have suffered any kind of harassment to contact any member of the Committee and register their complaint. If they do not come forward, and report to us, it makes it more difficult for us to help them.
3) In the light of the recent security lapses, what measures are being taken to ensure that such lapses do not occur again?
In these matters, as soon as the incidents were reported to me in writing, I have forwarded details with my comments to the Director.
I have also written last week to the Students’ Council Representative to get an update, if any, on action having been taken, but till date have not had a reply from her. I am meeting with the Director on Wednesday to bring up these and other issues, which could hopefully lead to a faster implementation of corrective measures being taken in future.
(Editor’s Note: Reply as given on October 21, 2013)
4) How safe do you feel women are on campus?
I feel that there are indeed some concerns. I was aware of them when I was a Students’ Counsellor and am aware of current issues that have reached the Sexual Harassment Committee. As I have said earlier, I urge anyone who feels harassed in any way or other, by anyone at all, to come forward and register their concerns. All such complaints will be taken very seriously and all attempts will be made to ensure that women are able to carry out their work/duties on campus without any hindrance. We strongly believe that women have an important role to play in the doing and thinking of science and engineering in this Institute, and their roles cannot be reduced because they feel unsafe or harassed.