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After Promising To Extend Curfew In March, Jamia Imposes Old Rules And New Punishments

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After the historic victory achieved by women students and residents of the hostel at Jamia Milia Islamia in March 2018, the curfew had been extended to 10:30 pm from the earlier curfew timings of 7:30 pm and 8:00 pm. The victory didn’t come about in one night. It has taken the women at Jamia years of collectivising, un-internalising patriarchy and resisting imposed ‘protection’ and guardianship of the authority. It had taken several petitions, open letters, appeals and protests to reach where they reached on the night of March 19, 2018.

As the new admission procedures for this year are almost nearing their completion and new brochures and prospectus’ have been printed for the courses and the hostels, what we see in the hostel booklet comes as an utter shock to us.

The Jamia administration in a brazen non-transparent, authoritative and undemocratic manner has brought the hostel timings back to 9 pm, and that too during the vacations so that there is no opposition and resistance from the students in the campus. They’re also expecting the anger to simmer down by the time we reach the campus after vacations.

The new prospectus has also issued a strict ban on protests, petitions and signature campaigns, the punishment for doing any of the former would lead to immediate cancellation of a resident’s place in the hostels. Further, almost all the stringent rules have been reintroduced, surveillance increased and the punishment prescribed for misconduct and dissent with the authorities.

The current hostel residents and the incoming batches need to know and understand how after years of struggles, the freedom to mobility and accessibility for women was achieved and the curfew was extended to 10:30 pm. You can read the complete manual here.

Adult women are capable of taking care of themselves and taking the right decisions. We deserve equal opportunities, accessibility, and visibility in all academic, political, and public spaces. We deserve the right to attend public meetings, seminars and libraries at whatever ‘odd’ times we want. These are our fundamental rights, and no administration can snatch them from us. We will not accept this authoritarianism at all. The regressions in the new prospectus and hostel rules need to be done away with or the admin could prepare to face resistance.

Naseema Choudhary, an ex-hosteller says, “This is unacceptable. The hostel administration has gone back to age-old rules of locking up women students in the name of safety. But the students will not give in to such discriminatory rules and oppose it in every possible way.”

Many residents of the hostel and participants of the protest in March were seen expressing their anger on social media platforms after the brochure became public.

I contacted the provost Azra Khurshid and asked her about the changes in the prospectus despite the new curfew timings and other rules that were agreed to by the Jamia administration on March 19, 2018. She said, “There were no struggles. That night in March, there were only 15 – 20 girls from the Old Hostel and some 10-15 girls from the New Hostel and the rest were outsiders. Only a few girls were shouting and instigating others from the front. They banged the gates, played ‘dhols’, this is no way. They didn’t hold dialogues with us. One fine evening they came and protested. This is no way. It was motivated by the outsiders. It had never happened in Jamia in years and years. If these women want to roam at night, they should stay out of the hostels, living in hostels is not compulsory anyway. We saw how the extended curfew time would work and gave them two months. There were many problems and now we have revised the brochures, we always do these revisions at the end of academic sessions. Moreover, the poor caretakers have to stay up till late in the night, this is no way of managing the hostel. They have to eat cold food, they come from far off places, they have to travel late. Also, it is not my decision. It was decided by the Registrar and the Vice-Chancellor.”

I asked, “but what about the signing and sealing of that permission that night and now abrogating the same, is this the right way to go about it?”

“That was signed on a plain paper under pressure. It wasn’t a legal paper. We didn’t even know what was written there. These 4-5 girls (taking names) pressurised us. The paper doesn’t matter,” she said.

In March, the struggle was not just against the discriminatory and sexist curfew timings but other absolutely stringent, choking hostel rules. The stringent and absurd hostel rules the women were protesting against, included:

1) The women’s hostels had a curfew, the men’s hostels had none (the curfew timing mentioned on paper for the men’s hostel, but it isn’t actively implemented).

2) Show cause notices issued to women residents arbitrarily.

3) Slut shaming and character assassination of the residents by ‘caretakers’ and wardens.

4) For a night out, parents had to be called and asked for permission a night before, and if that wasn’t enough, parents needed to send an SMS as well. The women residents also had to ask the local guardians for permission.

5) Poor quality of food served coupled with restrictions on ordering food from outside after a certain time.

6) Restriction of mobility even inside the hostel premises and minimum access to reading rooms after certain hours.

7) No late nights could be taken by the old hostellers and only two by the new hostellers.

8) Hostels weren’t allotted to students who didn’t have two local guardians living in the city. There was another condition that the guardians should be married.

The rule on getting married local guardians has been questioned time and again, a current resident at the hostel said, “This rule is so absurd. The students most in need of the hostels are ones who have no one they know living in Delhi, and if they had local guardians, they could easily live with them. Ironically the ones who already have some possibility of securing accommodation in Delhi are given hostels. Actually, what we now do, we get just about get any married couple we know as local guardians which is ridiculously absurd, but we have no option.”

Having to reiterate, the obvious, which unfortunately isn’t obvious to many, even though it has been 18 years into the 21st century: the mentality that infantilises women and thinks that we don’t have an agency of our own needs to go. The notion that women exist only in relation to men, as their sisters, girlfriends, daughters, friends and lack the imagination that we are our own selves and exist as independent beings.

The mindset that they are somehow divinely destined to be our guardians is redundant and regressive, to say the least. The questions of these extended hours leading to crimes fall flat as not all women stay in these curfew-bound places like myself. It is not that those living in apartments and other places keep roaming around the streets, but at least they don’t have a clock ticking on their heads making them anxious all the time, and reminding them that they should return to their cages as soon as possible.

Lastly, the issues of crime and harassment is a sad reality and the approach needs to be, to provide an adequate and competent legal redressal channel in the university and outside. In the campus, there need to be active bodies like the GSCASH or ICC, where the mechanisms are in order, and student representatives are elected through proper democratic means.

Gender sensitisation on the campus is the need of the hour and there’s an urgent need to have gender sensitisation cells and gender forums. This is a rational way of addressing the problem rather than caging women, which patriarchal institutions have historically done and denied us equal representation and opportunities.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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