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I still remember that day vividly. One of my batchmates (a 19-year adult female engineering student) had failed to return to hostel within the designated “in-time” of 7:30 pm, a rule that grossly violated the concept of equal student rights. She had gone out with a friend. And when she returned, all hell broke loose!
She was interrogated, threatened to be rusticated from hostel and college, insulted by hostel superintendent, taken to professors and lectured on. The hostel authorities called her parents, and the drama continued for days. Meanwhile, she was ridiculed by her batch-mates. Rumors followed. She became butt of all gossip.
And all of this happened in an institution that claims to promote science and technology studies irrespective of gender.
This incident took place almost 14 years ago. Back then, I believed she was wrong for daring to break the hostel rules. Today, I repent my judgment. Not just about this exceptional case.
I feel angry about how an adult woman in our college was denied computer or library access after college hours.
How there were regions within the college campus where “a girl could not go”.
Project partner with a guy? “Whats the point ? We generally work at night, you guys will not be around then”came the reply.
What about music band? “No we practice in boys hostels, you cannot come in there”.
Today after so many years, I feel a large part of my engineering experience was denied to me just because I was a female student. And not much has changed since – even today, women in renowned educational institutions around the country are struggling for Equal Student Rights
Useless, unconstitutional, patriarchal rules are rampant in all educational institutions
The average adult female student is infantilized in this country. She is subjected to unnecessary moral policing and subdued with dress codes.
While the whole purpose of education for all, encouraging women in science and technology, is greatly appreciable, as a female student, I felt I was only a poster girl for the diversity agenda.
Unfortunately, even as the ratio of women students in higher education institutions is rising (which is awesome), the moral policing still exists almost everywhere. The message is clear.
We are aware you want to study, but you need to be “protected”. You are adult, intelligent, smart, educated. However, you cannot go beyond the patriarchal social constructs. And even though legally you are eligible to choose the government of the nation, you are totally answerable to a higher authority or guardian, preferably a male.
The youth springs hope: Equal Student Rights
Today’s youth is a more informed generation. Movements are happening in few parts of the nation, where protests are being made to “unshackle women”.
Pinjra Tod, a youth movement, is gaining momentum in Delhi.
In one of their posts they write “In Pinjra Tod, we have repeatedly insisted that the university needs to stop infantalizing women students, and recognize them as adults. The university is responsible to us and to the Indian constitution, not to our parents. We have constantly asserted how the university continues to reproduce the casteist and patriarchal structures that are present in our societies and in our families, instead of being a space that supports women students in their growth and liberation.”
Few institutions, like BITS Pilani, have noticed and are reconsidering the differential rules for boys and girls.
To change a mindset of a society, it takes time. But it is these small things that send the right signals to the next generation, and as educational institutions, they should only promote gender equality.
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