BHUBANESWAR: University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all universities to set up Special Cells in their institutions to deal with the issues of gender based violence and conduct gender sensitization programme.

The commission has also urged the universities to constitute internal complaint committee (ICC) to tackle the issue of gender based violence on women students and employees. It may be ensured that ICC constituted in the university is working as per UGC (prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment of women employees and students in higher educational institutions) Regulations, 2015.

“Ensure that widest possible dissemination of provisions of the law pertaining to sexual harassment of women at workplace should be done. Provide healthy and secure atmosphere for all women at all the places and facilities on the campus. Facilitate registration of grievances related to women and sexual harassment on UGC student grievance redressal portal,” said UGC secretary Rajnish Jain in a letter to all vice chancellors of the universities.

UGC has suggested that a safe and healthy environment for women students and employees on the campuses of higher educational institutions is a necessary precondition to quality education and research. The institutions can play a significant role in ensuring the safety of women, read the letter.

UGC has also requested the institutions to prominently display and inform toll free number 1800111656 to all concerned for registration of grievances related to women and sexual harassment.

Soumendra Mohan Patnaik, vice chancellor of Utkal University, said they have already set up ICC to deal with the issue of gender based violence in the institution. “We will follow UGC direction and set up a Special Cell to look after the issues of women students and employees of the university. This cell will also organise workshops and other awareness drives to sensitize ICC members about the rules and regulations. Besides, we will also take initiatives for betterment of these women,” he added.

Padmaja Mishra, vice chancellor of Rama Devi Women’s University, said they have set up ICC, grievance committee and sexual harassment committees in the institution to address the issues of the women students and employees. “We have not received any sexual harassment complaint so far. We will set up the Special Cell and create awareness about the rules and regulations regarding the prevention of sexual harassment at workplace act,” she added.

Akankshya Nayak, second year PG student of Utkal University, said ICC and special cell is needed for the women students and employees of the institution. “The cell and committee will help them to lodge a complaint with the authority if somebody from the university harasses them. This is important for them,” she added.

Swikruti Mishra, first year PG student of Rama Devi Women’s University, said this is a good step taken by the UGC for the safety of women in the campus. “If an institution sets up this type of mechanisms, people think twice before harassing any women student or employee. It is convenient to lodge a complaint with the institution instead of going to police and taking help of any NGO outside,” she added.