Why college women in India are protesting their curfews

For most of us, the college experience meant classes in the morning, maybe a part-time job in the afternoon, and late night trips to the library, the movies, and/or making a pizza run. College is supposed to be when we learn to spread our wings and take on more responsibility, but for many women in India, it means something totally different. Did you know that at Thiruvananthapuram College of Engineering in Kerala, female students have curfew at 6:30pm? For most of my time at college, that would have only been half the day’s scheduled programming!

Across India, many universities have early curfews for their women, whereas male students have later curfews — if they have them at all. This is in large part because India still has a widespread rape problem, and increasing restrictions on women’s behavior is somebody’s idea of a way to prevent sexual assault. The problem? According to many, incidents of sexual assault in India are still on the rise, and these rules and regulations only make the “blame the women” sentiment worse. These strict rules are often accompanied by stifling treatment from dorm wardens, who grill female students on where they’re going, when they’ll be back, and sometimes even lock them out of their dorms if they miss curfew by even a few minutes.

But our sisters in India know what’s what. Just like the Red Brigade, a group of woman literally fighting back against India’s rape culture by learning martial arts, a ton of college students are staging protests and sit-outs, as well as going to the media to make their voices heard.

According to the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, and others, these girls are intentionally “loitering,” to reclaim public spaces for women; they are holding late night marches and posting messages of empowerment in graffiti. The discrimination on college campuses is totally unfair, they explain. One activist said, “State authorities have to stop . . . seek[ing] to control and regulate the lives of young adult women in the name of ‘protection’ and ‘safety.'”

These girls explain that they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their freedom to be adults, be students, and just live their own lives in order to avoid being attacked. And while the schools are under a lot of pressure from parents to do something about the sexual assault problem on campus, we’ve got to hand it to these girls: crazy-early curfew probably isn’t helping.

“The city will become safe not by having less women in public spaces after dark, but by having more women. When will they get it?”​ 21-year-old student Utsa Sarmin asked the Washington PostWe couldn’t agree more.

Related reading: 

A few amazing women we’re taking time to celebrate on Smart Is Cool Day

In trailblazing news: A transgender woman was elected mayor in India

[Images via Twitter]

Debbie Holloway
Debbie Holloway lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works closely with Narrative Muse, a fast-growing source for movies, TV, and books created by and about women and gender diverse folks. Read more
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