Mumbai Crime: Former student of TISS alleges 'Sexual Assault' on campus

Sep 29, 2018, 20:15 IST | Pallavi Smart

After scrapping of Section 377, ex-student speaks out about the assault by conference attendee in 2016

Mumbai Crime: Former student of TISS alleges 'Sexual Assault' on campus
Illustration/Uday Mohite

In a #metoo moment at one of the city's foremost educational institutions, a former student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has spoken out about an alleged sexual assault on the campus in 2016. He has also said that when the incident happened, section 377 of the IPC was quoted to him in order to silence him. He was told because homosexuality was criminalised, he, too, would be implicated under the law.

After the recent landmark judgment by the Supreme Court, the former student has decided to speak out. He has also formally registered a complaint with the TISS authorities. Dr Shewli Kumar, chairperson of the Women and Gender Development Cell and Presiding officer for the Internal Committee, TISS, confirmed receipt of the complaint and said it would be looked into.

The student said the perpetrator in the case is an Indian national settled abroad and is not associated with the premier institute. He was on the campus at the time to attend an annual conference organised by TISS. The student and the perpetrator met through a dating app on campus and started talking. While they continued to chat the first day, the two met on campus the next day and then strayed on to the terrace of the institute.

The assault
Describing the assault, the student said, "As I put my foot on the last stair of the terrace, he pushed me against the wall, and bit me very hard on the back of my neck. I told him to stop. I could not shout as I was afraid of being caught by the administrative authorities. Nevertheless, I expressed my displeasure, but the man refused to stop and kept biting me. He then suddenly stopped and invited me to sit next to him. Soon after, he unzipped his pants, and started forcing himself on me.

Everything happened so quickly, I had no time to process anything. The person continued to assault me and let go of me only after I pushed him away with all my strength," said the student, who hasn't come out to his family regarding his sexual orientation yet.

The student said though the perpetrator later apologised to him, he feels that his consent was not taken into consideration at all in whatever happened and hence he feels molested.

He said, "I kept crying because this was something I never imagined happening to me or anybody else for that matter. I felt like I had invited this violence. I kept blaming myself."

No one to turn to
He added, "TISS, back then, had no provision for reporting such cases coming from the LGBTQ community. More so, I was guided at that time to not take it to the police because section 377 criminalised homosexuality." He has decided to speak now in order to highlight the violence faced by the LGBTQ at the hands of powerful individuals in these circles.

He said, "As young queer folk exploring our sexuality and politics, we often tend to stay quiet and let people of power exploit us. And, it is disheartening that a lot of times violence comes from within the community. I feel that calling out such men is important because what happened to me could be anybody's reality. It's not easy for people to speak about it, most of the time. I kept questioning and shaming myself for what happened."

He added, "It has been a harrowing experience. Every time I read about sexual assaults, I cannot stop thinking about this particular incident, and picturing myself in those moments of falling weak at the hands of power, circumstances and the law."

TISS says
When contacted, Dr Shewli Kumar said, "The committee might not be aware of the case, otherwise there would have been some action taken by the authorities. The institute is very aware about problems faced by the LGBTQ community, even though the Sexual Harassment Act 2013 does not talk about LGBTQ issues.

"The University Grants Commission, in the year 2015, had issued a regulation on how to involve LGBTQ complaints under the purview. The institute has been proactive in framing ways to deal with LGBTQ complaints, too, with much focus on creating awareness among students at large that they can approach us. The committee is also dealing with a few complaints already.

"At the time of this specific incident, the committee was still guided by the Vishakha guidelines, which does not include the LGBTQ community. That's probably one of the reasons why this person did not feel comfortable approaching the committee. But, some action would have been taken had the student approached us."

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