Women at a university in India are fighting back against curfews that limit their freedom on campus.

Delhi University requires that students living in the women’s dorm be back in their rooms by 8 pm, an extremely restrictive curfew. School officials, however, think these regulations will help curb campus sexual assaults. In response, students have protested by launching online petitions and holding marches past curfew as part of their campaign “Pinjra Tod,” or “Break the Cage.”

Delhi freshman Nilanjana Paul, who lives in one of the women-only dorms, tells the Washington Post, “Why do I have to write the purpose on my forehead if I want to go out? Why can’t I just go out aimlessly and meet friends and stroll? Am I inside a cage?”

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The Post reports:

More than 1,800 incidents of rape were reported in New Delhi last year, and the city is being called India’s “rape capital.” But as women in India report increasing incidents of sexual assault, India’s politicians, community leaders and even police officers have continued to blame women’s clothing and behavior. Nationwide anti-rape protests in 2012, which were triggered after a young woman was fatally gang-raped in a moving bus in New Delhi, and other smaller, local campaigns across India have opposed such curbs on women’s mobility.

Unfortunately, some parents are more on board with the university officials than with their kids. Pratibha Jolly, the principal of Delhi University’s Miranda House, says, “Parents see these rules as critical to keeping their daughters safe in college, they would hold us responsible if something were to go wrong. If the students want more freedom, they need to negotiate it with their parents instead of us.”

As part of their demands, Delhi University students are requesting a more lax curfew time, possibly no earlier than 11 p.m.

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Across India, many women are mobilizing in defense of their own safety and freedom:

In response to rising sexual assaults, a women-only culture has gained ground in India — with more women-only buses, cabs, travel groups and women’s coaches on the Metro. But activists are also pushing back with popular campaigns like “Why Loiter,” which urges women to wander without any apparent purpose and reclaim public spaces that are mostly inhabited by men.

Women’s rights activist Kavita Krishnan says, “What we are seeing is the flowering of a new generation of women’s movement in India. It is coming out of the tension created by the new economic climate where you want to send more and more women into higher education and workplaces but you want to control their behavior in the name of tradition.”


Contact the author at clover@jezebel.com.

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Image via BBC