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moral policing

St Xavier’s University teacher ‘forced to quit’ for Instagram post wearing swimsuit

Woman has alleged that she was called to the VC’s office and asked to resign for ‘having indulged in improper social media behaviour’

Subhankar Chowdhury | Published 09.08.22, 07:39 AM
St Xavier’s University.

St Xavier’s University.

File photo

A former teacher of St Xavier’s University has alleged that the authorities forced her to resign last October over an Instagram post in which she was seen wearing a swimsuit at her house.

The woman has alleged that she was called to the vice-chancellor’s office and asked to resign because of “having indulged in improper social media behaviour”.

She lodged a complaint with Purba Jadavpur police station in east Kolkata in November and is planning to move court.

The Wire, the news portal, reported the controversy on Monday morning.

Contacted, the VC of St Xavier’s University, Father Felix Raj, said: “I will not comment on this because she happened to be one of our teachers.”

The complainant, who completed her graduation from St Xavier’s College and masters from Jadavpur University, said in her complaint lodged with Purba Jadavpur police station that she had been forced to quit following a complaint from a guardian.

The woman said in her complaint that the guardian had said in his letter to the university that he had “spotted” his son looking at “objectionable” photographs of her on Instagram.

The case was transferred to Techno City police station, in whose jurisdiction the university falls, in February.

An officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate (under which Techno City police station falls) refused to comment.

“The photographs in question — of which two were pictures of me in a bathing suit, taken privately in my room — can only be viewed by people I explicitly give access to in the form of approval of their follow requests…” the woman has written in her complaint.

“I have not seen it (the complaint). I have not been sent a showcause notice. This has been a gross and criminal violation of my right to privacy and my photographs have been used to morally police me and aspersions have been cast on my character,” she has written. She told The Telegraph that university officials had read out the guardian’s letter to her.

She alleged that the VC had told her that the risk to the “pristine image” of the university was too high and accordingly she “would have to discontinue service”.

The woman, a resident of Mukundapur, told The Telegraph: “I want people to reflect whether it’s fair that someone can be forced to resign from service through the creation of a hostile workplace on the basis of moral policing.”

She said in her complaint that “this entire ordeal” is nothing short of an intolerable assault on her mental and physical health. “I no longer feel safe or protected at the workplace.”

According to her, she is clueless as to why the university did not initiate any legal action against the parent who had gained unauthorised access to her private image. “I am also clueless as to why I was not given access to the alleged letter of complaint and the opportunity to react to the allegations,” she said.

A former dean of students at a state-aided university said the complainant was right in saying that her fitness to teach and discharge her duties was questioned “on the basis of photographs that had been illegally accessed”. The trend of subjecting woman to moral policing has been on the rise, the former dean said.

In July 2019, a 22-year-old woman, then a student of Presidency University, had alleged that an office-bearer of the flat owners’ association of a Bypass housing complex where she lived refused to listen to her complaint because he said she was inappropriately dressed, “like a woman of the street”.

“In April 2016, a Presidency undergraduate alleged that men from a poll campaign meeting had abused and assaulted her and a male friend on a south Kolkata street because she was smoking and wearing shorts,” the former dean said.

Last updated on 12.08.22, 06:32 AM
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