Last week, I was a speaker for a literature festival at the Tata Institute of Social Science. I remember encouraging the enthusiastic female students to never remain silent in the face of discrimination.
I told them that our parents and teachers teach us many things, but they don’t teach us how to survive in the real world. They fail to tell us of the atrocities that are committed against the women in our country, every single day, every single hour.
We could become one of the many women who face domestic violence, dowry harassment, rape, molestation, unequal wages, glass ceilings, slut-shaming, body-shaming, fat-shaming and many more things that make us feel small. We will face comments that’ll make us feel ashamed of what we wear, if we marry or don’t marry, if we work or don’t work. And even if we are lying on the road with our intestines pulled out, we will still NOT get justice.
This is our country. And we ought to be ashamed.
Therefore, you can understand why I’m upset when the same patriarchal messages are being doled out to bright college-going men and women even today. Barring young female minds from access to a library, clocks back to the dark ages.
Telling girls that they have to wear a salwar-kameez, otherwise they will get PCOD (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and lose their desire to reproduce, is so regressive that it’s laughable. These rules hark back to the age-old antidote for crimes that hold back women. The responsibility is placed on women to ensure their own safety. Instead of questioning the intention of the men who molest, such rules act as if it is the presence of women that incites molesters. Remember, Abu Azmi?
I also hate the fact that our elite colleges enable ‘discriminatory rules’ that apply only to female students. I can tell you what can be done instead of arbitrary anti-women rules. Increase the safety of women around the campus. Have strict disciplinary measures that prevent men from harassing women. Improve hostel management. If you can’t do that, then close the library at 11 pm for both female AND male students. YES. It all boils down to a little thing called equality. We stood in solidarity with the ‘Pinjra Tod’ campaign. We all stood up when Rohit Vemula killed himself while protesting campus rules. Does India always need blood on the floor to learn its lessons?
The students, half of them women, are our country’s future. We are responsible for shaping their minds to make our India better, not throw their way of thinking back in the gutter. If we don’t create equal opportunities in universities, then we will never create equal opportunities in the world.
Meghna Pant is the award-winning author of The Trouble With Women (Juggernaut, 2016), Happy Birthday (Random House, 2013) and One And A Half Wife (Westland,2012)....