The University Grants Commission has notified India's first gender-neutral regulations relating to sexual harassment. The landmark regulations for students will enable male victims of sexual harassment to file complaints.
The new UGC regulations on the prevention and prohibition of sexual harassment recognises the fact that sexual harassment is an issue that afflicts men, women and third-gender alike.
While the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2013 only makes it possible for women to approach the internal complaints committees with grievances, the UGC regulations are the first of its kind to have taken the gender neutrality aspect into account.
Every institute has been instructed to set up Internal Complaint Committees (ICC) to probe complaints of sexual harassment. The ICCs are required to finish their investigation within a period of 90 days. Action on the report will have to be taken within a period of 30 days of its receipt.
The regulations also specify that the onus of addressing complaints of sexual harassment lies with the higher educational institutions where the students are enrolled.
The UGC Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions states that the institution authorities must "act decisively against all gender based violence perpetrated against employees and students of all sexes recognising that primarily women employees and students, and some male students and students of the third gender are vulnerable to many forms of sexual harassment and humiliation and exploitation".
The procedure for filing complaints as laid down by the regulations require an aggrieved person to submit a written complaint to the ICC within three months from the date of the incident. In the event of a series of incidents, the complaint must be submitted within a period of three months from the date of the last incident.
In the cases when the aggrieved person is unable to make a complaint owing to physical or mental incapacity, or death, the provisions make it possible for friends, relatives, colleagues, co-students, psychologist, or any other associate of the victim to file the complaint on behalf of the victim.