Every college girl living away from home in India knows this story. At some point she has had to live in a hostel. And yes, though she might make the most everlasting memories and finest friends in a hostel, there is one thing that has and will always pester her as long as she is there. The hostel curfew.
It is that fear of the matron and her harsh tongue; that drives us to hasten our study hours in the library and change our dinner plans to lunch instead. And this phenomenon is not new. It has been an age-old tradition; something that even my mother went through in her college days and probably her mother too.
We are told that the world outside is dangerous and being venturesome and adventurous will not serve us well; that it is the times that are bad. Be that as it may, I doubt that telling girls to hide behind walls is going to make things better. Or even limiting their opportunities and freedom. Is the world outside not treacherous for our male counterparts? Are they somehow immune to all harm because of their gender?
We preach of gender equality but it is the little things like the girls hostel curfew that speak volumes of what we think of our girls and boys. If the authorities truly think that the late hours are unsafe then there should be a curfew for all the hostels, irrespective of whether it is a women’s hostel or men’s.
Keeping a strict curfew for women students in colleges, though a well intended effort by the authorities, is if anything, a step behind in making our women feel safe. It implies that women are powerless and must be protected from nefarious night crawlers. That they need to be specially guarded. And that if it were the lad who was to get into any kind of trouble he would be able to fend for himself.
The solution to the ever-increasing crimes against women is not by limiting their freedom or even telling them to ‘be safe’. The answer lies in curbing and restricting the perpetrators of the crime and not the potential victims.
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