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

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(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. ( 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


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

    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.

    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 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.

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