Trigger Warning: This petition contains details of transphobia against queer individuals.
“You got raped because look like a woman,” – this is what Abigail Irfan, a student at St. Joseph’s university in Bangalore, was told a week after the incident occurred.
The Head of Department of the Mathematics Department implied that being a woman or that “looking like a woman,” is reason enough for someone to undergo sexual abuse. In addition to making transphobic comments, the professor continued to misgender Abigail in front of her peers, ultimately forcing Abigail to drop out of St. Joseph’s University.
The comments and behaviour of the HoD constitute a clear violation of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 18(d) which states that “whoever harms or injures or endangers the life, safety, health or well-being, whether mental or physical, of a transgender person or tends to do acts including causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years and with fine.”
What is the responsibility of educational institutions? It is and should be to nurture confident individuals. But St. Joseph’s University has done the exact opposite. It has devastatingly caused mental trauma and life threatening harm to numerous queer students attending the university.
Students have shared that it is common practice for professors to make prejudicial comments against the LGBTQIA+ community during classroom lectures and propagate a hostile and queerphobic environment on campus.
Professor of Social Work, Dr. Mary Princess Lavanya, has openly advocated for conversion therapy – a practice banned and declared illegal by the Madras High Court  – during her lectures.
Students have quoted her stating, “Homosexuality is a sin. It is against the law of nature. Homosexuality is a medical condition that can be cured with treatment.”
Perpetuation of such harmful beliefs is a clear indication that faculty at St. Joseph’s University has NOT been gender sensitised, a University Grants Commission requirement as per its guidelines on Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment at Workplace for Women in Higher Educational Institutions, 2015  as well as other guidelines under the New Education Policy, 2020 . Furthermore, advocating for conversion therapy within classrooms is in absolute disregard of the law.
The university has also failed to take action against such instances and has demonstrated a lax attitude. Arsha, a student who filed an official complaint to the university administration with regards to the rampant queerphobia on campus that they were experiencing, received a response only after 309 days, i.e. 10 months, of having filed the complaint. The university responded after students recently made their grievances public. It claims to have set-up an investigation led by the Internal Committee to look into the complaint.
We condemn the transphobic and gender discriminatory behaviour of St. Joseph’s University’s faculty members. There is no doubt that the queerphobic comments made by faculty also lead to emboldening other students to alienate, assault, and marginalise queer students on campus.
With deep concern for past, present, and future students at St. Joseph’s University, we demand that:
Reinstate students who were forced to drop out because of faculty violence
Report of the investigation run by the Internal Committee to be made publicly available.
Immediate suspension of Mathematics HoD for violation of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
Conduct gender sensitisation workshops/seminars as per UGC guidelines
“Gender sensitization seminars, contests/exhibitions/debates/ and film screenings should be organized regularly to sensitize the students, teachers and other staff about the existing gender stereotypes that reinforce gender-based discrimination and violence.”
Preparation of a handbook on prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment, and gender sensitization to be prepared for all faculties in line with the UGC Saksham guidelines.
Given that the Codes of Conduct handbook provided by St. Joseph’s is in clear violation of the UGC guidelines, it must be revisited and reframed to withdraw any gender discriminatory policies and codes of conduct inscribed within.
We need to stop the violence against the LGBTIA+ community.
Sign the petition to demand safe campuses for all!
3. NEP 2020 Basic Facilities And Amenities For Safe Secure Environment For Women And Women Cell (For Sensitization, Policy Implementation, Monitoring And Grievance Redressal) In Higher Educational Institutions