The recent case of IIT Delhi implementing a regressive rule on its female students of Himadri hostel — asking them “to wear covered decent western or Indian attire” — is not an isolated one. Indian academic institutions have been imposing such draconian measures for a while now.
What IIT Delhi did shows how expecting equal rights is still a far-off dream for girls even from one of the premier institutes in the country. Especially, when just a few weeks back, the Roorkee branch of IIT repealed time restrictions on the women hostellites in the campus and deployed vans and guards for their safety. This contrasting behaviour is puzzling and shows how much women have to fight in Indian institutions just to be treated with equal respect as men.
The institution has now revoked its circular and the dress code rule but that happened only after media outrage against it.
“Girls are over and over again lectured about wearing pajamas while going to the mess while boys have no restrictions, even if they are roaming around in their boxers,”- Second year MBBS student from Government Medical College, Dehradun
OTHER COLLEGES IMPOSING SIMILAR DRESS CODE RULE
Apart from IIT-Delhi, there are many examples of colleges and universities which have implemented sexist rules only for women. The Government Medical College in Kerala’s capital, Trivandrum, issued a dress code for its female students instructing them not to wear jeans, leggings, short tops or noisy ornaments.
A fourth year student studying B.Tech from Rajasthan College of Engineering for Women, Ambika Gupta, told SheThePeople.TV that even in their girls’ college, they are not allowed to wear “inappropriate clothes”. She narrated how at a farewell function, a student, who was wearing a blouse that the warden found too flashy, was asked to change her attire because it showed “a little too much skin”. And considering that this is happening in a girls’ college is in itself quite unusual.
Another girl in her second year of MBBS from Shri Guru Ram Rai Medical College of Dehradun, Paridhi Gupta, recounted a similar story. While hers is a co-ed college, there are different sets of rules for boys and girls. Gupta said, “Girls are over and over again lectured about wear pajamas while going to the mess while boys have no restrictions even if they are roaming around in their boxers.”
The situation is equally bad for professors in some colleges. R.M.D College in Chennai restrained a professor clad in jeans from entering the college campus. In another incident, four girl students in a Haryana college were fined for wearing jeans and T-shirts to class.
The worst, however, was when the principal of a renowned girls’ college in Mumbai tried to establish an intrinsic relationship between girls wearing jeans and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
MORE SEXIST RULES FOR WOMEN IN COLLEGES
As if limiting women’s sartorial choices wasn’t enough, some colleges have a problem with women venturing out on their own. Hostel curfews, meant to thwart women from stepping out of their rooms, have never gone down well with students.
In 2015, Jamia Milia Islamia barred girls from going for “late nights” and asked them to be back by 8 pm. In Aligarh Muslim University as well, similar rules related to women’s movement had angered the students who staged a big protest demanding freedom from authorities.
Ambika also gave a peek into the severe time restriction in the hostel because of which she had to shift to a rented apartment. In her first year, she said that she was not even allowed to go out of the college in daytime, let alone night outs.
“We had to get permission a day before from our parents. Only after that did the warden allow us to move outside the college. However, this did change as you enter the third and fourth year. So for the students in third and fourth year can be out as long as they want but as soon as they enter the college and mark their presence in a digital platform, a message will be sent to their parents,” said Ambika.
And rather than condemning such exploitative tenets, WCD minister Maneka Gandhi recently tried to justify hostel curfews by enlightening the masses on the concept of “hormonal outbursts” that deviate women from the right path.
“First and foremost, it is the violation of basic constitutional liberties of adult women. You cannot lock them up and subject them to discriminatory rules”- Kavita Krishnan
REVERSE EFFECT OF SEXIST RULES
“Why isn’t there a dress code for boys?” asks Anchal Goswami, a student of Gender Studies. “Why do these institutions always impose such rules on girls? There is no prescribed decent dress code for girls in Indian culture, so people should stop making Indian culture as an excuse to discriminate on the basis of gender. They should be allowed to wear clothes that they are comfortable in. Covering a girl’s body is not going to solve any problem. In the name of keeping our honour, they are violating our rights like freedom of choice and freedom of equality,” says Anchal.
While Anchal’s questions and views are legitimate, Kavita Krishnan, noted feminist and Secretary of All Indian Progressive Women’s Association, sheds some light on the topic, “First and foremost, it is the violation of basic constitutional liberties of adult women. You cannot lock them up and subject them to discriminatory rules,” said Krishnan.
“Also, there is ample evidence that these sexist rules actually make women unsafe. For instance, these rules have resulted in a lot of harassment, which has even made women suicidal in some cases. Secondly, you are creating a situation where women are blamed for violence because such rules basically say that you are responsible for your own safety. So if you go out in the street, the administration will ask the women, ‘why did you go out?’,” added Krishnan.
She went on to talk about curfews in hostels and how they have a reverse effect on safety. Krishnan explained that if women are outside their hostel past their curfew time, then they are unable to return to the hostel for safety. They are forced to spend the night elsewhere where they may in fact be unsafe.
COLLECTIVE THAT FREE WOMEN — PINJRA TOD
In August 2015, an autonomous collective — Pinjra Tod – of young college-going women was formed to protest against such regressive rules. It was actually Pinjra Tod that brought the IIT Delhi incident to everybody’s notice by posting it on their social media. The group is actively fighting against colleges and women’s rights in academic institutions. They organise marches, all-night meetings and events to spread awareness and bring gendered exploitations to the fore.
“Why do our administrations have this anxiety and desperate need to police what women wear? Every other day, there is some absurd diktat in one institution or another,” a Pinjra Tod post said on social media.
Talking to us, a member of the collective, Shambhawi Vikram, said, “Such rules are quite rampant in Delhi University. Not just that, wardens also police women who wear a burkha just because they look different. The purpose of the rules is to just ensure that they are constantly under surveillance.”
“There is a lot of anxiety around women becoming assertive, so it is basically a reflection of that. And two years ago when Pinjra Tod started, then just talking about it was huge, but now it has almost become common sense,” added Shambhawi.
With the rules masquerading as progressive, while in reality they are not, it is best to repeal them. But it will still take a long time for patriarchy to loosen its hold on society, but we shall stand strong and protest every inch of discrimination.
STP Intern Charvi Has Also Contributed To The Article
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