Tanzila Taj, who is studying for a masters in sports physiotherapy, recounted the numerous instances when she has resisted men passing lewd remarks or touching her. She has beaten up the molester on one occasion, and taken another to a police station.
"Why be shy? I always retaliate," she said at the workshop organised by Jamia's Centre for Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences. The workshop was held earlier this week.
Taj also had a question: What does one do in case of remarks and gestures that men makes subtly, which can't be proven, and because of which most women don't file a case.
"A complainant's statement is believed... The presumption is in favour of women," replied Manjula Batra a professor at Jamia's law faculty.
Speaking to IANS, students also voiced anger against the deep-rooted beliefs that they have to face at every level. Zeba Saifi, a third-year bachelor of physiotherapy student, said she has to struggle against her male classmates' perceptions about clothing.
"It's hard to convince them that girls' dress doesn't provoke. They are stuck in the belief that if a girl is wearing a certain kind of clothing she is inviting," Saifi contended.
There was anger among them that despite the country-wide agitation last December, harassment in buses, like people coming too close, continues.
"Earlier I didn't know how to react. I would think about it the whole day, and that would be the end of matter. But now, having participated in the agitation, I am emboldened, and do retaliate," Saifi added.
Among the few boys who attended the workshop, Farhan Hayat, also a third year physiotherapy student, said such events were vital.
Coming from Varanasi, he said he now studies in an environment where a lot of teamwork is required.
"Being one of just four boys in the class, I feel a bit awkward, especially in the practical work, where boys often have to be the subject," Hayat said, adding that through team work, he had learnt what was right and wrong behavior in mixed groups.
Mohammad Gulzar Iqbal, a second year student from Darbhanga, added another dimension: "When we are in groups, we unintentionally pass comments, which might be sexist. We can make a beginning by being more careful."
Senior faculty member Anjali Gandhi set the tone for the workshop when she stated that no matter what a girl was wearing, no one ha the right to stare; it's her body after all. And just because a girl asks you for notes, don't presume she's interested in you. Don't start owning people.
"Even staring with those X-ray eyes is sexual harassment," said Gandhi of the School of Social Work and chairperson of Jamia's internal committee that looks into sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
Staring, stalking, making demands and advances, passing sexually-coloured remarks and even suggestive comments on social media are acts of sexual harassment, and can land you in trouble, the speakers at the workshop stressed.
While these words of caution were directed at the boys, their presence in the hall was thin, primarily because there is a majority of girl students in the Centre.
There was also anger at the general delay in the delivery of justice and exception to this was the verdict in the Dec 16, 2012 gang-rape that came in nine months, the law faculty's Batra said.
"We need progressive judges to give brave judgments," Batra added.
A fast-track court here that Wednesday convicted four men for the gang-rape, sentenced them to death on Friday.
M. Ejaz Hussain, the director of the Centre said Jamia and other universities should make gender sensitization workshops mandatory at the orientation stage.
"These should be in small groups, for a better impact," he noted.
The speakers emphasised that Jamia was a safe place because of its culture of tehzeeb and its zero tolerance policy.
"When students join at undergraduate level, their outlook is very narrow. By the time they are at the post-graduate level, their outlook broadens, especially in professional courses. But giving the opposite sex due dignity is an area that we have to work on," said Sabiha Hussain, associate professor at the K.R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies.
(Meha Mathur can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 13-09-2013)