Men, step up and do your partThe morning Bhrikuti Rai’s piece (‘Tribhuvan University lecturer sexually harassed female students for years’, Jan 24 2019) appeared in The Kathmandu Post, my father who teaches social work and sociology to first year Bachelor’s students at a TU-affiliated college said he felt dismayed and hopeless.
The morning Bhrikuti Rai’s piece (‘Tribhuvan University lecturer sexually harassed female students for years’, Jan 24 2019) appeared in The Kathmandu Post, my father who teaches social work and sociology to first year Bachelor’s students at a TU-affiliated college said he felt dismayed and hopeless. He spoke about how over the last few years teaching sociology, he would often mention Bhattachan’s contributions to the field and ask his students to not forget this one name in the list of mostly foreign writers that were assigned in the course. The layout of the course indicates the level of power and reach that Bhattachan had through his work. “I feel so bad that I let young people look up to a person who I can’t believe would do such a thing...” my father added.
It has been my experience that when news of such incidents are published, if not all, heterosexual cisgender men react surprised that their counterparts are capable of such actions. I don’t know what this surprise means but here is what I
do know: Now the responsibility for teachers like my father is to undo the complicity. Replying to him I said: Why don’t you photocopy this article and distribute it to the faculty in the school and to all the students and say, “In the past I have mentioned Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan’s name in my classrooms as an exemplary academic however in the light of the news that we have learned I want to say that he abused his position of power. What he has done is not right. I am sorry for my complicity in what has happened.
Making a statement like this is not about absconding oneself from the situation, instead, it is a first step working towards correcting complicit behaviour that has made such incidents possible in the first place. These stories are not the exception, unfortunately, they are the rule.
Teachers hold immense power as made obvious in the article and thus they need to step up. School administrators need to support teachers, provide paid time to have conversations, create anti-harassment policies with students at the centre. The list goes on. This should be taken as just a start; conversations need to continue. I doubt Bhattachan will apologise or repent. And I don’t care about him. I care for Pooja, Kripa, Smriti, Manisha, Nisha who shared their stories. Abuse and harassment take a huge toll on our bodies and require resources to heal that aren’t always at reach. If you are in the teaching profession, this is your time to stop talking and start listening. So instead of calling these individuals “brave” step up and do your part—own your complicity. Men, step up.
Raji Manjari Pokhrel