A viral tweet from Aug. 27 about unfair curfews for women at Aurangabad’s Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU) has revived an old debate on gender discrimination in India’s educational institutions.
MNLU student Aditi Pande’s said her university “locks” up girls by 10pm every day while boys are free to “roam around.” This tweet garnered over 2,700 likes and 670 retweets and quote retweets.
The authorities reason for this being-
1. Girls are not eminent to take care of themselves at night.
2. Snake, drunk Watchmen and boys are not safe for THE GIRLS.
3. Girls are supposed to be inside their hostels after 10 pm
4. They can neither access the staircase or the benches
— Aditi Pande (@adt__64) August 27, 2022
Clearly, her complaint wasn’t a one-off. India’s educational institutions have long confused protection for restriction.
Indian universities “protect” women by locking them in
In 2017, when women at Benaras Hindu University (BHU) protested against arbitrary and discriminatory curfew times, and eventually won back as much freedom as men, there was a glimmer of hope.
Change, however, hasn’t been sweeping enough. At least not going by the responses to Pande’s tweets.
Her outrage resonated with students from across India. At PSG Tech in Coimbatore, the deadline for women is at a far earlier 6.30pm, one user tweeted. Another said her college doled out heftier punishment for curfew violations to girls than it did to boys.
Some universities even confiscate mobile phones and impose sartorial curbs.
Moral policing of women by college administrations is common, too, according to a few responses.
Unequal access to education
Safety concerns already deter women from colleges in India, research has shown.
“Access to education will remain barely nominal if equal access is denied in substance,” tweeted Akash Bhattacharya, a former faculty member of Azim Premji University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“Restrictive in-times, discriminatory hostel and campus rules, sexism of various kinds, together prevent women from taking full advantage of their hard-won right to education.”
Some say India’s society hasn’t evolved enough for girls to go anywhere at any time. The restrictions, therefore, protect them. Others counter this saying that men must be locked up, instead, while girls are freed.
Weighing the risks and solutions, colleges are welcome to make their own rules. But then, in the 21st century, curfews can only be for everyone—or no one.