End Sexist Rules in BHU: Petition to the NCW to Intervene
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National Commission for Women,New Delhi
Sub: Seeking urgent intervention in BHU regarding blatant gender discrimination and restrictions on mobility of women students in Banaras Hindu University
We seek your urgent intervention in the gross violation of equal rights for women students of BHU. BHU being a public funded Central University is ascribed with the responsibility of guaranteeing constitutional rights of equality and freedom of expression for all students of the University. But in total violation of its institutional responsibilities, BHU under the present Vice-Chancellor Mr. G C Tripathi imposes gender discriminatory rules for women students of the University.
Women students of Mahila Maha Vidyalaya have come out braving possible disciplinary action against them and have informed the public through interviews in media about the brazen violation of their rights as students. The BHU VC rather than recognising the discriminations has repeatedly justified the sexist rules in the name of protection and security-
1. Discriminatory Hostel Rules: Women students of Mahila Maha Vidyalaya are barred from stepping out of their own hostel before 6am in the morning and 8pm in the evening. No such rules exist for boys hostels. The official Hostel Rules of Mahila Maha Vidyalaya not only mentions the discriminatory curfew timing, but also adds that women students will not be allowed to step out beyond this timing even if they have bus or train time scheduled for going home.
2. Banning of Non-Vegetarian Food in the Menu of Hostel Mess for Women Students: Sexism and gender discrmination has reached even the menu of hostel mess food in Mahila Maha Vidyalaya Campus in BHU. The University authorities have instructed to stop giving non-vegetarian food in the hostel, while non-vegetarian food is regularly served in men's hostels.
3. Discrimination in Basic Academic Infrastructure Such as Internet Accessibility: While free internet facilities are provided for each room in the boys’ hostels, there no accessibility to internet facilities in the girls’ hostels of MMV campus. A reply to RTI queries dated 15.7.2016 (attached herewith) acknowledges the fact that no internet facilities are provided in the hostels of Mahila Maha Vidyalaya.
4. Moral Policing and Imposition of Sexist Dress Code: The Hostel Rules of MMV instructs students to ‘Wear proper dress’ while stepping out of their rooms. The rules also mention that ‘wearing short dress’ is prohibited in MMV. In addition to the sexist dress code, the university guards regularly harass and intimidate women students if they talk to men students of the campus.
5. Curb on Freedom of Expression and Protest for Women Students: While the University authorities continue to impose sexist and discriminatory rules violating all norms and constitutional responsibilities, women students are told not to participate in any protest in the campus. The official hostel rules of MMV mentions that disciplinary action will be taken against any student who participate in any protest in the campus. Further, women students are made to sign an affidavit stating that they will not participate in any protest, during admission. A copy of the format of the affidavit is attached herewith.
All the sexist rules and practices exist in BHU in the name of ensuring safety and security for women, while there is no active Internal Complaints Committee to address complaints of sexual harassment by women students. The rampant sexism make it clear that women students are treated as less than equal part of the University whose mobility needs to restricted and freedom needs to be curbed. A university cannot become a prison for young women students and unequal gender relations cannot be official policy of a university.
The UGC SAKSHAM guidelines of 2013 (Measures of Ensuring the Safety of Women and Programmes for Gender Sensitization on Campuses) categorically identifies the problems of protectionism and recommends the following-
“While ensuring safety and access to a non-discriminatory or Sexual Harassment free environment, campus safety policies should not result in securitization, over monitoring or policing or curtailing the freedom of movement, specially for women.
The provision of safety for women on campuses must eschew the practice or tendency to be overly prescriptive to women by restricting their freedom of movement. Concern for the safety of all women, but particularly young women students should not lead to discriminatory rules for women in the hostels. The attitude to women’s safety in hostels often infantilizes these adult women and does not empower them to learn to strategize about their own safety. Most importantly the focus would have to shift to ensuring a safe environment around the hostel and campus. An urgent issue to address is safety for all women on campuses who want to sit in the library till late or in the science departments to do experiments. Proper lighting and shuttle
buses that take students to the hostel or the nearest bus stop are necessary.
The mentality of “policing” as a panacea for deep prejudice only spawns alternative forms of violence and subjugation.”"
BHU's rules for women's hostels are a glaring instance of precisely what the SAKSHAM guidelines recommend against: that is restrictions on freedom of movement of women students in the name of securitization.
We urge you to immediately intervene to end the rampant violation of rights of women students of BHU.
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