Campus Central

This isn’t a Fairy Tale, Don’t Lock Me in an Ivory Tower

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The freedom to loiter, occupy public spaces post 9 p.m., and see how our campus looks at midnight is a luxury and experience that women students are denied.

Earlier last week, women from Daulat Ram College (DRC) Hostel protested in front of the Vice Chancellor’s office demanding the removal of members of the hostel administration who infringed their privacy and policed their choices. The protests barely affected the administration.
As a student journalist, this development didn’t surprise me. A year ago, I was pursuing a story on hostel in-timings. Both Miranda and DRC had strict hostel timings that were religiously enforced. In contrast, when I spoke to the evening shift guard of Kirori Mal College Hostel, he breezily mentioned how he lets the boys come late if it’s a friend’s birthday or allows them to go out at midnight if they are hungry. This casual remark hit me very personally as having lived in a hostel the last three years, I know I would not be allowed to go out after 10 p.m., no matter whose birthday it was or how hungry I was.
Most women’s hostels and paying guest accommodations have an actual metal grill gate that is shut and locked at 10 p.m. and opened again at 7 a.m. before classes. Why would a good woman be out between these ungodly hours anyway? We are quite literally locked inside brick, mortar, and metal, sometimes without a fire exit. Our moral guardians like to believe that these in-timings don’t interfere with our education. Attending lectures is a luxury we
are allowed and anything beyond lectures though is curtailed by these timings. They ensure that there are no parties, no midnight walks at India Gate, no unplanned trips, and no chai at 1 a.m. We are quite literally modern
Cinderellas, as the clock strikes 10 our facade of empowerment and emancipation falls apart, like a badly
stitched polyester dress after one little rip. I particularly detest the social media forwards that urge men to respect women “because she is someone’s wife, daughter, sister, and mother” but make no mention of the fact that she is human and deserves to have her autonomy respected. I wonder if we will ever live in a space that does not restrict
us to these roles alone. It is exhausting to rise and set with the sun, to rush home as the clock ticks 9, sweating frantically as I lose my patience as the clock ticks closer to the deadline. It is high time the University administration let go of this facade of hostel in-timings. If we are old enough to vote, old enough to get married, then we are old enough to decide when to stay in and when to go out.

The scam that hostel in-timings keep women safe from harassment is the biggest lie. If there were certainty that I would never be harassed if I never set foot after 9, I would be willing to pay the price. But these so-called
pretenders who appear to care about our safety are the same people who avert their eyes as they see a man elbow a woman’s breasts in the metro. To say that you should stay in and protect yourself from rapists is the ultimate form of victim blaming. It implies that the responsibility of protecting oneself from harassment lies with the victim. It says that if you stay indoors then the perpetrator can find another victim, probably one out later at night, less covered up, and less sober.

The three years of college life are often the first time when girls get to move beyond their house. College life allows considerable time for youngsters to experiment, roam around, and have the first taste of freedom. These are
the days that people recount as they regale about the risks they took, the weddings they gate crashed,
hours they killed while doing nothing, etc. But when you deny someone to loiter or even run errands for 10 hours every day then you are essentially denying them the opportunity to have fun. A sight of girls carelessly singing songs
at Sudama Tea Point past 8 p.m. is a revolutionary imagery. It may be nothing for the guys, but the girls still
dream of loitering, just existing outside.

Kinjal Pandey
[email protected]

I was feminist before I knew what the word meant.

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