Picture Courtesy: http://images.indianexpress.com/2015/09/du-hostels2.jpg
This article was written by Kamakshi Gupta, a student of University of Petroleum and Energy Studies.
Recently a campaign had been organized by the students of Delhi University. All the students came together under the banner of ‘pinjra tod’ that means break the cage which was against the regressive hostel rules and all policies that have been made for women’s hostels and dormitories across the country. Nowday’s women’s hostels in India have been means of imprisoning girls and women. These hostels are seen as an extension of homes, it acts as a home far away from home, but having so many restrictions is violation of basic human rights. Typically, wardens those who manage the inmates of such hostels impose certain restrictions regarding the timings and especially the night outs and such restrictions are not reasonable. These hostels then become jails for the inmates.
VIEW OF THE INSTITUTIONS
It’s not only about the rules and the restrictions but the attitudes of the authorities of such institutions. The authorities give reasons for such restrictions stating that these restrictions have been made for the safety of women and they do not have any other intention. On the other hand they contend that women run amuck if are let out. Due to the lack of clarity of thought behind imposing of such restrictions, it comes across as double standards people have and these restrictions make such standards evident. The rules that forbade women from staying out late, maybe leaving the college premises alone or takes a leave on weekends and such restrictions are just a way to police them. No doubt the authorities have a responsibility towards ensuring the well-being of the students as they are far away from homes, but imposing unreasonable restrictions is not the right way.
WHO’S PROTECTING THE MEN?
Why is so that that such restrictions are not imposed on men, there is no institution barring men from going out nor are any kinds of codes of conduct or curfew hours prescribed for men. Though if we look into the history acts like ragging and bullying and other forms of intimidation with men’s hostel are much more but as such no restrictions are imposed on them. Though we all know that discrimination exists in our patriarchal society. But such rules give all the informal norms of institutions legitimate. If we take into consideration it’s not only about these hostel but even if in our daily lives boys have the freedom to go to markets till 9 at the night but girls can’t be trusted to be out later than 7:30 or so. All the residential accommodation for women has a curfew of 8 pm, but no such specification is made for guys.
LEGALITY OF THE CAMPAIGN
We all know that constitution of India is the supreme law, but our educational institutions are still guided by the fairy tales to model their policies. But such curfews inspired by the Cinderella’s stories applied on women are against the constitution and violates the right to equality and freedom of movement. This campaign is an urge for young women to free themselves of unreasonable restrictions on their freedom. Recently Narendra Modi said that women should not be shut behind the doors. Article 15 of the Indian constitution clearly states that government shall not discriminate any citizen on the grounds of sex. Though article 15(3) makes a special provision enabling the state to make special laws for women but above all, the constitution imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen through articles 15(A) (e) to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women. As women are not allowed to go out and move freely according to their conveniences, then this again a violation of article 19 of the Indian constitution which specifically states that every citizen has a right to freedom of movement regardless of the gender. Specifying timing to woman and not allowing them to go out for night out is just a way to restrict their movement. The university officials argue that these curfews are necessary to secure the students from the crimes such as gang rape and have to take care of the dangers faced by women especially at night while using public transports. The pinjra tod campaign denied all such arguments saying that there the solution to these problems can’t be by locking girls inside. Infact this is a way which is giving men the freedom to do whatever they want to do. These restrictions are not legally right henceforth changes should be made.
THE DEBATE ON GENDER EQUALITY
Such cases bring upon the debate regarding gender inequality. Even after so much advances and progress our country has made still there is gender inequality quite prevalent. This shows that our country is far way behind and there is a lack of progress. There have been other cases as well apart from this incident wherein gender inequality has been quite visible and still there had been no action taken. There was a case of Indian cricketer amit Mishra. In this a fatal gang rape of a medical student in Delhi in Dec, 2012 stunned the capital and the violence against women since not declined. The cricketer got bailed after few months, this is the main reason as no proper action is taken people continue committing such crime as they do not fear the law and till this is not solved, the restrictions will never be reduced. If we really want to make the place or city safe for woman… we all need to make the city accessible to her so that even women can move freely in the streets and even such institutions do not get a chance to lock them inside the 4 walls.
There was another case of blind Muslim teacherthere was a blind Muslim teacher who was barred from being rented a flat in India. One thing that is being demanded by students is that at least the curfew be at least half an hour after the library closes or at least before the last metro so that women don’t feel they are being trapped or locked out of public places and even they have right to access. There have been petitions filed by the students in this campaign which was addressed to the Delhi Commission for women and collected about 1200 signatures. This shows that more and more are against such inequalities.
If we critically analyze this scenario and look into all the aspects as the universities contend that if we see from the safety and parent’s concern perspective these rules are critical for keeping their daughters safe in colleges as if suppose something goes wrong later the university authorities will be blamed at the first place. So if students want to enjoy their freedom they need to negotiate this with their parents at the initial stage.These statements just do not seem logical and moreover gives a dramatically vague. How can the university feel that parents are responsible for making decisions for young adults? What if there are few people who are open to giving freedom to their daughters will the authorities be willing to remove such restrictions?
This logic is just not acceptable as the university owes no responsibility towards the parents and where does this responsibility disappear when some parents are not able to pay the huge amounts of fees these institutions charge? If they are so concerned about students they should focus on all aspect why only safety?. No doubt restrictions are good as it helps in maintaining discipline but such restrictions should be reasonable enough. All women have the right to decide where they want to go, till what time and with whom. Instead of imposing such restrictions, all should strive to make the country a safer place to live in so that even women can move freely according to their will and choice.
 Constitution of India.