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

‘The Women Have Had Enough’: Delhi Students’ #PinjraTod Movement Against Sexist Rules

More from Shambhavi Saxena

By Shambhavi Saxena

On the morning of 9th September, Jamia Milia Islamia students woke up to find their campus plastered with 300 posters boldly declaring “Pinjra Tod”. These two Hindi words that mean “break the cage” have been flowering up all over college campuses and nearby paying guesthouses, because women students are tired of having to live like caged birds.

pinjra tod poster

Towards the end of last year, St Stephen’s graduate Leila Gautham’s account of the regressive rules governing women’s hostels in Delhi University sparked off an inter-college discussion of the ways in which even esteemed institutions were infantilizing and immobilizing adult females. In June, Jamia Milia Islamia’s Provost issued a bizarre and vaguely threatening circular prohibiting girls from going out at night. Recently, an anonymous student from Lady Shri Ram revealed the gulf between her college’s feminist politics and its hostel regulations. And the women have had enough.

The restrictions on the number of nights a student may spend outside campus, the long winded process of obtaining permission, the absurd curfews being imposed on grown citizens – this and much more has culminated into a growing guerrilla campaign across universities in the national capital.

The Pinjra Tod movement, comprised of women from colleges in Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia, Ambedkar Univeristy, National Law University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, grew out of a simple Facebook page, where female hostel and PG residents began sharing their bitter experiences with guards, wardens, principles, landlords and the like. What is clear from all these stories is the need for an all-out rejection of these restrictive rules and the patriarchal protectionism they are built on.

pinjra tod graffiti
The most unfortunate immediate outcome of the escalation (or at least increased reportage) of crimes against women has been the immediate curtailing of women’s mobility. When the gang-rapes and molestations that have been happening under our nose for centuries finally come to our notice over dinner and the nine o’clock news, more often than not it is closely followed by well-meaning but constricting directives. Statements like “Be home before dark,” “Don’t use public transport alone,” “Have a trusted male companion that your family approves of,” “Don’t wear shorts,” can be an everyday part of life for most women. But the intensity at which they become repeated in the aftermath of unfortunate incidents isn’t as much about protection as it is about prohibition.

Attached to these statements are moral judgements, which gives people (by which I mean agents of the patriarchy) ability to vilify women who exercise their basic fundamental rights of movement, speech and the right to wear what they choose.

Already Pinjra Tod’s petition (which best explains the campaign’s mission) is gaining signatures online and on ground. These women have planned guerrilla activities in the wee hours of the morning, spray painting messages of resistance on streets and pavements on campus. Functioning mostly through word-of-mouth and social media, the group has been networking for a month now, and will be mobilizing student support at a Jan Sunwai planned for the 10th of October 2015.

For far too long women’s personal freedoms have been curtailed in the name of safety – safety that is conflated with our ‘honour’, our sexual availability, and our status as possessions, not people. These ideas become institutionalized, and therefore, harder to challenge, because what it comes down to is this – do you stand up for your rights, or do you bow your head, comply and hope for minimal damage? To the women of Pinjra Tod, this is an absolute no-brainer. Our rights are non-negotiable and if educational institutions, landlords, and even parents demand unquestioning obedience, they’ve got another thing coming.

Take campus conversations to the next level. Become a YKA Campus Correspondent today! Sign up here. You can also subscribe to the Campus Watch Newsletter, here.

You must be to comment.
  1. Vid

    First of all, I think hostel rules for women are necessary because India is not a safe country. And let’s not pretend that students are the most responsible section of the society. We all are pretty much aware of the rape statistics of India. So, avoiding strangers and not using public transport alone at night are not bad suggestions, maybe they are for your own good. In a city, all kinds of people live – good, bad or ugly. One example I can give of my area. A few months back, a half-clothed girl was found lying on the road. After a late night party at someone’s apartment, she became high af and did not remember anything on how she ended up on the road. Result? All the nearby areas became strictly against bachelors. Hundreds of people were asked to vacate immediately. So many suffered after this stupid incident. So, the moral of the story is that if you think India will become America, so it won’t. It will still take hundreds of years for India to be like America. Ask the NRIs who live in America, will their parents accept their rebellious attitude like Pinjra tod? The answer is No. The best solution is – accept the reality and be practical.

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Similar Posts

By Natasa Aziz

By Shazia Sheikh

By Shazia Sheikh

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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