Pinjra Tod: Girl Students Share Stories of Hostel Discrimination
Women students are taking to the streets, protesting the discriminatory rules of college hostels.
The heat is rising against the upcoming women’s hostel at Hindu College.
Agitations all of yesterday took over the campus – with more and more blatant examples of sexism coming to the fore. Pinjra Tod, an autonomous collective effort to ensure secure, affordable and non-gender discriminatory accommodation for women students across Delhi, submitted a 16,000-word report to the DCW in February.
(This report was compiled after speaking to hundreds of women across colleges and universities in Delhi as part of a campaign addressing archaic rules and moral policing in women’s accommodation.)
Till today, there has been no redressal.
Here are some of the complaints….
1. Deadlines & Curfews
Hostel deadlines curb women’s access to university and public resources like libraries, labs, sports complexes, etc., leading to a direct deprivation of equal academic opportunity for women.
I was a resident of Miranda House hostel from 2007 to 2010. During Holi, women are locked inside on the account of hooliganism in the adjacent boys’ hostel. I was unaware of this practice during my first Holi, so I stayed with a friend the night before. When I came outside around lunch, most of the streets were deserted. I tried going inside my hostel but was told that no one enters or leaves before 2. I remained out on the streets, alone, all day during the peak hours of “Holi playing”. The hostel didn’t give a second thought to my safety.Ex-student, Miranda House, DU
2. Moral Policing, Surveillance & Character Assassination
A significant aspect of discrimination faced by women is the cultural bias bordering on misogyny.
I’m a resident of a DU hostel. Once when I returned to the hostel 3 minutes past curfew (after having participated in a university-wide event), my warden publicly humiliated me. She rang up my father and said, “Hindu college ka ek bhi ladka nahin hoga jiske saath aapki beti soyi nahin hai.”Student, DU
Girls are not allowed to wear shorts in the college premises. I remember wearing knee length shorts once, when the warden asked me to go back to the hostel and wear something longer. I remember wearing a knee-length skirt when she asked me to cover my legs. I refused. She complained to my father that I have no manners when speaking to elders.Student, Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida
She goes on to relate:
“There were circulars put up in each and every room of the hostel, asking us to behave in a ‘ladylike manner’, not wear short clothes, and not step outside the hostel after 10 pm. There were no such rules for guys ordering them not to stare at us. At times, even the guards would point out to my friends that they shouldn’t be dressing a certain way as it didn’t ‘look nice’. I once stayed out of the hostel for two nights without informing the warden – following which, the dean called up my father and said to me, ‘shareef ghar ki ladkiyaan aise nahin karti’, and ‘if my daughter had done something like this, I would’ve shot her’.”
3. More Substantive Sense of Security
The establishment of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) against sexual harassment is mandated by law to ensure women have a secure experience in the university. Most institutions, however, have nobody to counsel a complainant of sexual harassment.
I’m pursuing a Masters in Gender Studies in JMI and have also graduated from there. I was once stalked during my graduation days, while I was a resident of the girl’s hostel. This group of guys followed me everywhere and eventually started making blank calls to me. I even received threats as I refused to be in a relationship with a boy I barely knew. When these threats became threats of rape, I reached out to the hostel’s caretaker and warden.Student, Jamia Millia Islamia
However, if she was hoping for any redressal, she was sorely disappointed:
“They completely dismissed the issue saying it was an off-campus incident and not a serious one at that. I registered a complaint with the Delhi Police women’s helpline. When the warden found out, she was infuriated, telling me that this would spoil the image of the Jamia hostel.”
4. Fee Difference
Accommodation for women – be it university-provided or those managed privately – are often more expensive than those for men.
Our hostel fee is exorbitant and a major part – 98,000 – has to be paid in one go at the start of the semester. The mess fees of Rs 22,000 is also taken at the start of the next semester in January. When I joined college, I wanted to take admission to the hostel, but wasn’t able to as my father could not pay such a huge sum at one go.Student, Daulatram College, DU
(The writer is an ex lifestyle editor and PR vice president, and now a full-time novelist and columnist on sexuality and gender, based in Delhi. She is the author of ‘Faraway Music’ , ‘Sita’s Curse’ and ‘You’ve Got The Wrong Girl’.)
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