Curfew in College: What Girls Don’t Want and Boys Don’t Have

Rehan and Yash were discussing the report and meanwhile, Prashasti was busy soldering the circuit. Yash said, “Prashasti, will the circuit be ready by tonight?”. Prashasti nodded her head in affirmation and continued soldering. Suddenly, her phone rang and it was Hiba calling.

“Where are you?”, asked Hiba as Prashasti picked up the call.
“In the lab.”, replied Prashasti.
“What time is it?”
“8.20 P.M.”
“Come back to the hostel immediately.”
“Because you left the late coming application in my bag and forgot to submit it to the caretaker for approval.”

Prashasti jumped to her bag and packed her things haphazardly. Rehan and Yash were shocked at the turn of events. “Guys, I will complete the circuit tomorrow.”, Prashasti said before Yash and Rehan could even ask. Rehan checked the time and exclaimed, “Curfew.”

No change is felt on a day to day basis; but when you look back later, everything will be different.

India is growing everyday. One of the contributing factors is the growing enrolment of its youth population for education. Young children are relishing the reality of going to school and more adolescents are opting to continue their studies after school to become graduates. But, generally the better opportunities for higher level of education are present at Tiers 1 and 2 cities. Thereby, majority students leave their homes and the protective surrounding to an unexplored new for a better life.

Parents are overly concerned for their wards as their children have to wander in an unknown territory. So, their want for a protected and safe campus of the institutions are well justified. Their concerns are also recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC). UGC has clearly stated guidelines for safety of students on and off campuses of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) against attacks, threats and accidents, both man-made and natural.

This bestows a significant responsibility on the authorities of the HEIs. The key lies in institutionalising the best practices and standard operating procedures that can substantively protect students from any threats and assaults, physical, social or psychological. HEIs need to follow the outlines mentioned in the guidelines properly and in an orderly fashion so as to reduce the probability of any fiasco happening in the campus under its jurisdiction. So the authorities implement the essence of the guidelines by creating rules and regulations, that will be applicable in the campus under its jurisdiction.

HEIs create regulations catering to all the facets of a student life in an higher education institution. Out of all, their are some implied on the inmates of the hostels of HEIs. These Hostel Rules are generally put up on the institute website and a hard copy of the same is handed over to the students during admission process of the college. The rules mainly incorporate maintaining an organised and well-behaved resident community in the hostels.

All the rules under the hostel rule book are applicable to all the residents. But the implication of two of the rules are not in the way as they should have been. The topic for discussion in this article are these very dear rules of the administration. Their draconian implementation has been a concern for the student community off late. These rules, though should be factual, turn out to be based on gender prejudices.
They are:
1. The decision of what will be the in-time for hostel inmates.
2. Implementation disparity of hostel timings rules based on gender.

Hostel timings is a concept that exists for all hostels, be they inside or outside the campus. The student community have to adhere by being inside the hostels after the prescribed timing as set by the rules. Also, any student while entering/leaving the hostel is required to make an entry in the register with the details. This acts as a code of conduct and makes sure the student feels responsible for his/her whereabouts. This is to be implemented strictly when the student leaves the campus for planned or unplanned leaves by keeping the record in a separate register along with an application with the details duly informing the warden or the caretaker.

This is what is expected for Utopian. But the problem arises as the HEIs are very successful neither in making proper rules nor in exercising them. The run-time of the colleges is generally from dusk till dawn with lunch in between. The students get time to use the resources of the colleges including library, student activity centre, stadiums, courts, gym, theatres, canteens etc. only after the classes. The in-timings should be fixed in a manner so that students get enough time to participate in physical, cultural or technical activities for extra-curricular growth.

The timing decided as the in-time of the hostels should be such that a student gets enough time to either use resources of the varsity or visit the city as per need. Also, keeping it different for both the genders makes the rule offensive. Why is the patriarchal mindset still existing by keeping such rules. Moreover, flax comes over the implementation as boys are let to roam even after the timings whereas strict actions are enforced upon girls for flaunting the norms. The requirement for the boys students to keep the outings recorded in the register is lenient as well. The girls, on the other hand, need to do it every time with scrutiny being kept on their outings and judgements passed. The problem is not to be replaced by boys versus girls but why not boys but only girls. The security issue is not gender bias and boys need a proper implementation of the rules for their safety. To believe that boys can never face any problem and can be safe, is outrightly wrong. But often girls face the brunt alone.

Boys get to stroll the campus as long as they want. But girls need to do everything in the bare minimum time. The allotted time creates a havoc in as the time nears. Going out and experiencing the city becomes an ordeal in its own. There is a constant absence from social and cultural clubs, activities, practice, events etc. Participation in any activity which can cause delay in reaching the hostel needs to informed to the caretaker and warden in advance and prior approval is required to be taken and carried.

There is discrimination in implementing the rules with respect to gender. This timing act is even called curfew in college for the girls. It is as if the girls are let out in the campus till late, no other problem can match the level of nuisance in the campus. As per Wikipedia, “Unlawful assembly is a legal term to describe a group of people with the mutual intent of deliberate disturbance of the peace. If the group is about to start the act of disturbance, it is termed a rout; if the disturbance is commenced, it is then termed a riot.”

The implementation of rules keeps supporting a particular mindset that the students take with them after leaving college. Until the processes and rules at the college show progressive mindset, the society at large cannot expect a change.

So, unbelievably the main problems are the authorities of the HEIs because they are the ones who make the guidelines of the UGC actionable by converting it into rules and applying them.

An institution is as good or as bad as the persons who run it.

The problem has a very well established reason. The official posts are honourable. Ideally the person holding the office is expected to work in an unbiased way without any judgements and/or reservations about anybody. The people, positioned on such posts by the virtue of their experiences and qualifications, are involved in formulating and implementing the rules. But in reality, this isn’t how the output of the process turns out to be. The people who sit often involve their personal prejudices and outlooks in the decisions taken. That is why, their reservations about the present generation take the brutal shape in the form of draconian rules and stricter implementation.

There is difference between what you write and how you enact.

There is a need for a change and at an utmost urgency. The Preamble of the Constitution of India contains the term “EQUALITY”. Therefore no one can deny or restrict any individual of this country for the same.

Talking through logic, first and foremost there are some points in the UGC guidelines on safety of students on and off campuses of Higher Educational Institutions which can be used for the greater good. The ones that ought to have been implemented but are not can provide clarity on the present distress:

>> All HEIs should ensure that provisions contained in UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Education Institutions) Regulations, 2012 are observed by teaching & non-teaching staff, students and other stakeholders in letter and spirit. Discrimination, verbal or behavioural, based on the caste, religion, colour, nationality, sex, gender, sexual orientation and social status is strictly prohibited and HEIs must do all it takes to ensure that such practices are nipped in the bud.

>> HEIs should organise quarterly parents-teachers meet (PTM) so that grievances and gaps in system can be addressed and resolved. Online complaint registration system can also be launched so that issues can be addressed before they slip out of hands of authorities.

This gender bias is a problem and it exists in the very sacred places of learning. If a problem has not been reported doesn’t mean its existence can be questioned or acceptance is to believed. The problem has not surfaced due to a number of reasons.

There are HEIs which does not have student unions which renders the student community helpless to bring their problems to the surface for reporting and discussion. And the HEIs which do have student unions have lesser representation of the girl population. This therefore does not help to reciprocate this social issue on a centre stage.

The students who do raise this issue generally face their moral values questioned. Being a boy, the lashing statements include “How does this affect you in case it exists?”, “If girls haven’t raised this problem anytime, then why is it a concern for you?”, “Is it a problem because this is related to something of a personal sort?”.

For girls, the comments get worse. The first straight away raises question on their conduct. And if still sustained, it’s the normal back lashing stating that such freedom will cost them dearly. This freedom will lead to increase in chances of eve teasing or even harassment. The thoughts of giving freedom to girls might cause negative impact in the environment of the college and keeping the varsity under proper security will be tough shows how orthodox beliefs still exist.

By continuing these malpractices and not letting the authorities being questionable for their conduct, HEIs shows the omnipresent patriarchal attitude which is very opposite to what HEIs should actually stand for to transform society. The authorities should remember that to provide an environment for a better learning is their only sole responsibility. Moral policing is not their area and should never be their priority.

Many students come from co-educational background and being subjected to such a messy prejudiced situation at an age when one is transforming into adult from teenage is troublesome. When the present private and government companies, are promoting themselves by showcasing women empowerment in their existing female employees and trying to hire more women in their workforce, this type of environment at the college level creates a dent in the progress. The students, although being educated, still continue following the patriarchal mentality.

The authorities of the HEIs not answering the demands for a change in the radical implementation of such rules and maintaining the status quo is the biggest reason why the system hasn’t changed. For students carrying out protests, march and rallies against the issue is no solution. The problem can be solved only by bringing all the stake holders in this complex problem on-board, namely, the student community especially the girls, their parents and the authority. No confrontations can lead to a well proposed and acceptable to all solution. It can only be done through discussions and dialogues. To make people talk is the hardest stuff as only then can logic be explained.

The resolutions to the two questions will ultimately bring respite to the present stressed out environment. First, why is girls being allowed a little freedom is synonymous to problems. The timings should be kept in a manner such that they can too use the resources of the college, be part of activities happening in the college and can roam outside the campus in the city as per their need. And second, that why is there at all the timing restriction for the hostels. Is the campus not safe enough that the requirement of students to be inside the hostels is a necessity. Campus in-timings can be a better concept than the existing one.

The students can bring forth their views through online or offline votes to questions regarding the rules. This will help to showcase the numbers supporting the proposal and also keep them anonymous. The parents who support the change through signing Letter of Support. The authorities on their part can have a trial run so that the change can be observed and if successful, can be done permanently. The exact applicable solution to each varsity will come out only after a deliberate discussion by all the stakeholders and finalising the best suited time and rules acceptable to all.

In the end, the solution of the problem is to help the girls become a greater part of the student community of the college. This is not to make them feel they are superior to others in any way. Boys have to understand that this process will not curb their freedom in anyway. Moreover, the solution is to understand the need for a change and put proper enforcement of the hostel timings rule without making it suffocating. It is also the responsibility of the students as well to understand and respect that the existence of such rules is for a good intent. Present implementation might not have given the desired result as it should have but to take advantage of it can put them in gruesome situations. Because

Some risks are not worth taking in life because regret lives forever.

Also, in case any problem arises later such that it brings problems to the authorities, they would not resist in showing how the previous enforcement were proper. This upturning of the present scenario will, in enforcement, restrict powers of the administration and raise questions, in principle, on their implementation.

To sum it all, when dealing with such problems, it is to be remembered that such cases are like multiple choice questions with multiple answers correct. All the options should be correctly marked so as to make the answer perfect. Any absence or inclusion of any other option will make the answer wrong ultimately.

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