The University Grants Commission (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2015 was issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (University Grant Commission) on May 2, 2016. In exercise of the powers provided by clause (g) of sub-section (1) of Section 26 and sub-section (1) of Section 20 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 (3 of 1956), the Regulation of 2015 was established, which shall apply to all higher educational institutions in India. Put simply, the Regulation outlines higher educational institutions’ duties in terms of preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. As the UGC Regulations are statutory in character, they apply to all universities and institutions across the nation. The institutions can use a variety of measures to ensure that students are aware of the redress mechanism as well as the appropriate people to contact and report problems. Reporting occurrences of sexual harassment can be done in a variety of ways such as posting notices on bulletin boards, establishing complaint boxes in easily accessible areas across the campus, posting anti-sexual harassment rules on the college website, and emailing students and workers. This article provides an overview of this Regulation and the possible future it holds in a nation like India where sexual harassment has become common parlance.
The structure of the regulation of 2015
The UGC (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of women employees and students in Higher Education Institutions) Regulation, 2015 is a statute spread over twelve provisions. Regulation 2 (b) of the aforementioned statute clarifies that the term ‘Act’ with respect to the 2015 Regulation would mean the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Therefore, some of the definitions provided under Regulation 2 of the 2015 Regulation stand similar to the Act of 2013. The 2015 Regulation introduces a list of new terms with respect to its purpose which are:
- ‘Campus’ (Regulation 2(c)): Campus signifies the location or the land where the higher educational institution is located.
- ‘Covered individuals’ (Regulation 2(e)): The term ‘covered individuals’ has been defined exhaustively under Regulation 2(e) of the 2015 Regulation. ‘Covered individuals’ are all those individuals who are involved in a ‘protected activity’ as provided under Regulation 2(j).
- ‘Higher Educational Institute’ ( Regulation 2(h)): Higher educational institute signifies a university under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956.
- ‘Protected activity’ (Regulation 2(j)): Regulation 2(j) of the 2015 Regulation defines the term ‘protected activity’ inclusively, thereby leaving scope for a wide interpretation of the same. A social term by nature, the protected activity includes participating in a sexual harassment proceeding, working with an internal inquiry into suspected sexual harassment practices, or acting as a witness in an investigation by an outside agency or in litigation.
- ‘Student’ (Regulation 2(l)): A person duly admitted and enrolled in a programme in a higher educational institute is referred to as a student.
- ‘Third party harassment’ (Regulation 2(m)): ‘Third-party harassment is another new concept introduced by the 2015 Regulation under Regulation 2(m). The term signifies sexual harassment as a result of an act by a visitor to a higher educational institute. It does not include an employee or a student of the institute. Thus the concept of ‘third party harassment’ refers to the harassment by an outsider.
- ‘Victimisation’ ( Regulation 2(n)): ‘Victimisation’ is also a new term introduced by the Regulation of 2015 under Regulation 2(m). Any kind of unfavorable treatment meted out to a person with an implicit or explicit mention to obtain sexual favor is known as victimization.