This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Ayatollahs of IIT-Madras Mull Safety Measures For Female Students: Moral Policing?

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

(From trusted sources)

The elite institution plans to put its 1000 female students under a virtual house arrest to ensure their safety

A wave of “moral awakening” is sweeping through the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. The great “Indian culture”, the Orwellian administration thinks, dictates how the female students of the institute should behave. In light of cases of sexual harassment and assault, the institute plans to introduce measures aimed at ensuring the safety of its female students. However, the measures are not substantiated by any official information on the offences.

The administration has galloped on to the moral high ground by invoking the hallowed “culture” of the land. It is the same “culture” which puts the onus of a crime on the victim while the perpetrator gets off scot-free. Here is how IITM plans to make its campus safe for the female students. The proposed restrictions apply only to the female students.

Biometric system and 11:00 P.M. curfew

A biometric system would be installed which would profile the students on the basis of their movement in and out of the hostel. The female students would be discouraged from stepping out of their hostels after 11:00 P.M.

First, a student would not be able to visit her department late at night to access the computer facility on the eve of an exam or an important presentation. Second, what should a student do if she wants to have food late at night? Some eateries in the campus remain open until 2:00 A.M. The administration has a simple solution. One must eat only at the mess during the fixed timings. It is a bizarre argument which links hunger to safety. Third, a student may go out of her hostel provided that she procures a “meaningful purposes letter” from her department. The letter should be furnished every time a female student steps out of her hostel after 11:00 P.M. Finally, students may face “difficult questions” on the basis of their movement in and out of their hostels.

Paid escorts

A female student can avail of the paid escort service arranged by the institute if she wants to step out of her hostel after 11:00 P.M. The male students of the institute would be paid to volunteer as an escort.

This is a perfect instance of the male savior complex. Only a genius can come up with a safety enhancing measure like this one, it befits IIT. It presupposes the incorruptibility of the male escort. So if a girl wants to go out of her hostel after 11:00 P.M she has to call up her escort, “Hey, I am scared. But I want to go out.” If a molester turns up, she cannot say, “But I had asked for an escort!”

“Declaration of Safety”

The female students and their parents would be made to sign a declaration of sorts according to which the institute would not be responsible for the safety of female student who do not obey the rules. In case of a mishap, the victim will face “difficult questions.”

The “Declaration of Safety” is the epitome of gender discrimination. It is the most appalling of all the measures proposed by the administration of IITM to ensure the safety of its female students. Can one expect the parents to sign such a declaration?

Surveillance cameras and security guards

The administration plans to install 2000 surveillance cameras across the sprawling campus of the institute. In addition to the cameras, it plans to have security guards patrol the campus in plain clothes during the night hours.

Click the map to view larger pic.

The administration is behaving like a nanny state. It has the budget to install 2000 surveillance cameras but it cannot fix certain areas in the campus which are penetrable. Instead, it has handed out a map with the “sensitive areas” in red. These areas within the campus have witnessed many untoward incidents. It is shocking to note that all the major roads within the campus are marked in red.

It is scarcely believable that the Chairperson of the Women’s Forum of IIT-Madras remained muted when these rules were being proposed. The purpose of higher education is elevation of the intellect. If the individual freedom of students is taken away, what sort education will they receive? When the learned members of an institution like IIT not merely support but also promote such draconian rules, a profound contradiction comes to the fore.

How are they different from the cop who blamed the spurt in rape cases on victims? How are they different from those in our society who think a woman to be a figment of someone else’s imagination? If they are one and the same, what is one to say about the alarming trend of moral policing? These are some of the questions which beg reflection and debate.

“The Fourth Estate is defined in a dictionary as ‘The press, including journalists, newspaper writers, and photographers’. As IIT Madras’ official magazine, we are all this and more”, goes the description of The Fifth Estate. The official magazine of the campus cannot even write about the proposed changes, let alone question them. It had published an account of a different meeting during which imposition of restriction on night life was discussed. The magazine took the report off its website after The Times of India ran a front page story on the issue. Was it forced to do so by the administration?

The mainstream media is abuzz with stories on restrictions on the ‘Hostel Night’ celebration, a rite of farewell for the graduating batch in different hostels. However, the above safety measures affecting the 1000 female students in the campus have gone unreported.

In a judgment dated 20th Jan 1999, the Supreme Court of India noted that incidents of sexual harassment violate fundamental rights to gender equality and right to life and liberty. As a result of its policy against sexual harassment, the Jawaharlal Nehru University set up a body called “Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH)” which has the mandate to implement the policy. (http://www.jnu.ac.in/GSCASH/Rules.asp#IX.4) When contrasted with the rules and regulations of GSCASH, the administration’s proposals seem even more ridiculous. Steeped in its myopic vision, it can’t see the big picture.

There is no denying the fact that the administration of IITM is concerned about the safety of the students. However, it is wrongly mixing up the threat faced by the female students with their freedom to move around. The administration is obliged to ensure that the campus is safe enough for the students. It cannot use the proposed rules as a fig leaf to hide its failure to ensure the safety of its students.

The writer is a student of IIT Madras

Img: http://www.thehindu.com/education/article625221.ece

You must be to comment.
  1. Rigyasingh13

    We cannot move out of our College Campus after 7:30 pm, hostel gate closes at 9:30 pm so even the college campus is out of bounds and by 12, the terrace and garden gates are closed. We have attendance at 7:30. So, these implementations in light of what happens in DU colleges are light.

    As for hunger pangs, we cannot order after 10 and there is no night canteen. What needs to be done is for everyone to speak up.

  2. Subin

    The proposals of the IIT-M adminsitration are ridiculous, of course. But it is not as if administrations anywhere else in India are very enlightened. Since JNU has been mentioned in the article, let me add that the JNU administration did not decide to set up the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) on its own when the Vishaka judgement came. The JNU Students Union (JNUSU) had to fight for one and a half years to get the administration to set up this body. Even the name GSCASH and its composition were formulated by the JNUSU, formally adopted at a convention (inaugurated by Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal) organised by the JNUSU on 8 March, 1998. That set the tone for the agitation waged in the months to follow, which bore fruit with the adoption of the “JNU Policy Against Sexual Harassment” by the Executive Council of JNU on 25 February 1999. The administration initially announced a nominated body of students and teachers ironically named “Sexual Harassment Committee”. The JNUSU responded with a massive agitation for the formation of a committee with elected rather than nominated members. Finally on 8 March 1999, the GSCASH in its present form was formed. Even after its formation, the students under the leadership of JNUSU have fought to get the administration to approve the rules of the procedures of the GSCASH, to make GSCASH a statutory body of JNU (which was done in in 2003-04) and so on. Even nowadays, there are instances when the administration comes up with suggestions which amount to moral policing, as a response to some untoward incident in the campus. But the student movement in the campus has shown the strength and maturity to fight off such attempts to curb students’ freedoms. It has done so without compromising on the issue of women’s safety in the campus, for which the institution of the GSCASH has been crucial. I hardly know anything about IIT-M. But the students’ movement there too, I think, has to link up the issues of women’s safety and freedom along with larger issues of the interlinked struggles for democratisation and gender justice. In other words, there is no short-cut to struggle.

  3. IIT M Student

    Nothing like this is being planned to be implemented at IITM… Cheap publicity stunt by you guys.

  4. Anoop

    Horrible.
    Why students are not protesting??

  5. rashmi

    why not give martial arts training to female students and keep it simple…

  6. Danny

    I just want to be the lucky mail escort. 

    1. bee

      Sure, once you learn how to spell male.

  7. A wellwisher and not a rapist

    Whoever is the writer should hopefully understand that frequently bringing up such exaggerated posts (given we have sufficiently many people on facebook in college to share it up proudly) won’t solve your issue. Moreover there are people in the institute who do have a life outside IIT. So, kindly don’t over-publicize the molestation and groping cases  in social media. Target the ones who are indulged in such activities and help the rest of India realize that not all male IITians are characterless. I hope you accept this in good faith and think twice before coming with such provocative and exaggerated posts..

    1. Rigyasingh13

      It is only by speaking up that change can be brought. If no one would know of this issue, no one would react.

  8. Pranay Manocha

    Sounds like the girls at IIT Madras need to organise a slut walk.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SlutWalk

    Slightly disappointed though that the writer of this article chose to remain anonymous. Indian youth shouldn’t be afraid of reactions.

  9. Anushree Iitroorkee

    yeah we have that in IIT Roorkee too…..  though we tried everything the administration……..just as the Delhi police doesnt seem to understand that its nt the girl;s who should be put to the jail

  10. Sneha

     A 11pm curfew isn’t anything to compare with Ayatollah! Are you insane? Some private colleges has a 6:30 pm curfew! This isn’t the end of the world, its probably colliding with your PMS schedule.

    1. Rigyasingh13

      Don’t you think it’s time to change that too? Most of the DU colleges have a 7:30 deadline. But IIT-D doesn’t. It’s the society that needs to change not us.

  11. IITM_Student

    Recently there have been lot of RUMORS floating around about the 11pm curfew, the escort service, etc.. mostly because of some random article published in this online journal. Please check for some authenticity before publishing admins!
    The truth is:
    a) There is and WILL NEVER be any restrictions for GIRLS to go out of the hostel or campus !!! NO QUESTIONS will be asked to any couple nightwalking or to anyone going out in the night!  b) BioMetrics will be installed in ALL hostels (NOT ONLY IN GIRLS) as a safety mechanism so that only hostel inmates are able to enter. ( I can obviously let my friends from other hostel in with me, but a random outsider can’t! )
    c) “ESCORTS” was just a thought..an idea…and IF…IF it ever happens…the idea is not that one can only go out in the night when they have called for an escort…but ONLY and ONLY FOR THOSE who want a security guy to escort from lab to hostel or vice versa late night! (FYI, girls can still and some of them still do call the security to escort when they return from labs late night, whats wrong in that!)-IITM Student executive wing

  12. narhawal

    11pm? IIST has its curfew from 9pm. Consider yourselves lucky.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By libbymaynard

By Nehal

By Alexander Zingman

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below