By Amrita Singh:
Sexual harassment cases against women are rampant in our country and many times multiple factors are considered responsible for it, even though there’s just one culprit. These factors include the victim’s attire, the time of the incident, the authority ‘in-charge’ of the victim’s safety. It is believed that women are incapable of making decisions to protect themselves and they need to be treated like children. Since patriarchy has made it much easier to curtail a woman’s freedom than to make efforts and change the society altogether, hostel and PG providers all over the country have imposed various restrictions on women. The restrictions include curfew timings for girls residing in hostels, dress codes, rules to take permission from local guardians to stay all night, etc.
“Jhoothi suraksha ka khol de pol. Pinjra tod! Pinjra tod!” (Reveal the truth behind false security. Break the cage! Break the cage!)
Pinjra Tod: Break the Hostel Locks is a movement which was started more than a year ago by students. It challenges the existing system and demands women’s constitutional right to freedom as adults. It is an autonomous collective effort to ensure secure, affordable and non-discriminatory accommodation for women students across Delhi. As the name suggests, the movement aims to free women from unnecessary restrictions imposed under the guise of safety and has made significant breakthrough in this endeavour. Its efforts have made the Delhi Commission for Women question Delhi University (DU) colleges about sexist hostel rules. They even share instances of harassment faced by women on their Facebook page to spread awareness about the struggles of women and are also creating an online repository of information to help students make informed choices on PG accommodation.
Recently, University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) released separate regulations that ban the imposition of such discriminatory rules in universities across the country. However, it is believed that since there’s no date written on the UGC notice, no university has been implementing it. Pinjra Tod is following up on this as well.
In the wake of all that the movement has gone through, Pinjra Tod is organising a night march and vigil on September 23, 2016. A Whatsapp message regarding the event that’s doing rounds says, “Come armed with poetry, with songs, music and dance, with a spring in your steps, as we march on.” The March will begin at 7 pm from Arts Faculty, North Campus and will culminate into a wandering collective vigil through the night and into dawn!” When asked the reason behind this event, Shambhavi Vikram Singh, one of the founding members of the movement, told Campus Watch, “The night march is a kind of reclaiming of the street, demonstrating anger outside our colleges. But the night vigil takes it further as it is also a stand against sexual harassment, rent extortion and moral policing in PGs.”
Sabika Naqvi, an active member of Pinjra Tod says, “There is a celebration involved in this movement. It is a melange of people coming together from different backgrounds. We have come a long way in one year and have raised our voices on various issues. The idea of having an impact with full solidarity was always a priority and we were able to manage that. Pinjra Tod is a process and the process of breaking cages will continue.”
It’s only when we collectively occupy the roads will we be safe, it’s only when we collectively speak up will we be heard and the night vigil is an opportunity to accomplish both.