“After leaving my home, my first thoughts went to my college, the prospect of finally meeting my friends, and all the places I could go for a visit – it was like a dream. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be not allowed to wear whatever I wished to or my worth be brought down just because I was 10 minutes outside the curfew timings,” said a female student at University of Delhi.
As a woman looking for PGs and confirming hostels, we go through a checklist of things – electricity, food, rooms… whether we can wear the clothes we want, the curfew times and if our friends are allowed inside.
This is the reality that female students face in a place where they just want to learn and study. Women have always faced differential treatment in all spheres of life, and now, the roots have extended to the living conditions while receiving education.
Hostel Fees Must Fall and Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) are just a few examples of protests going across millions of colleges and universities. The same colleges that were supposed to impart knowledge are now being restricted by arbitrary practices and ‘patriarchal’ rules.
These aren’t some isolated hostel or college events, but one of the many problems faced by women across the country.
Problems of hostel life
Leaving home and entering a completely new world is a very intimidating prospect – you know no one, and you know nothing. Being in college is all about leaving a familiar world behind and entering into a domain that exposes you to things that you’ve never experienced or seen before.
After years of having a say in your personal space, you’re suddenly forced to share space and time. It also comes with the horde of securing the bathroom at the right time or facing the nightmare of missing an important class.
The loss of familiarity comes at the cost of facing new challenges. No more already washed and ironed clothes right at your disposal. No more steaming hot food, cooked with the most delicious spices. Instead, you’ve to wash and iron your own clothes. And forget about deliciousness – just barely filling the stomach is the only way around.
Adjusting with people who have their own lifestyle and schedule can be pretty hard as well. Their late-night jam sessions and early morning wake-up calls are something you cannot help but get used to.
Problems Women Face in Hostels
But of course, the problems of women aren’t just restricted to washing their own clothes and staying up late because your roommate refuses to sleep. We also have to put up with unreasonable curfew timings and dress codes for our ‘safety’. Women are also charged extra, in some cases double than men.
Extra Hostel Charges
One of the most atrocious problems women face in PG and hostels is the extra charges for the female occupants than their male counterparts in the name of ‘safety’ and ‘precaution’. Some universities charge women ₹2,958 more every month for undergraduates and ₹2,614 more for postgraduates, which adds up to ₹29,580 and ₹26,140 over the course of their 10-month tenure.
The highest fee charged for men comes down to ₹81,960 in VKRV Rao postgraduate hostel, whereas there are four hostels in DU itself, where the cost exceeds 1 lakh rupees a year. The problem here lies in the ‘gender tax’ women have to pay because the universities are building them on the basis of a ‘self-funded model’.
Ridiculous Curfew Timings
Across almost all women hostels and some exclusive girls’ PGs, unreasonable and fairly ridiculous curfew timings are imposed. They’re cited in accordance with the women’s safety and their protection.
While there might be curfew timings for men but they’re either neglected or not carried out stringently. The timings for women are kept at 10 PM or as early as 6.30 PM. This leads to their exclusion from any late-night college activities or access to resources after a point in time. The Jamia Milia library is open till 2 AM at night, but the women are expected to be back by 8 PM.
Women across different colleges have reported how the wardens publicly humiliate them, going as far as questioning their morals.
Moral policing is yet another one of the problems faced by women, especially in hostels. We are asked to cover up cleavage and legs to avoid ‘tempting’ the men. To ‘protect their modesty‘, the mess of Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi, checks the women’s length of clothes, neckline, etc., to avoid being exposed to the male mess staff.
Besides disallowing women from going out, we are not allowed to bring anyone inside – for academic purposes or otherwise. While keeping the male visitors away may seem reasonable, some hostels and PGs do not even allow visits from females.
Some PGs and Hostels allow the women to go out for the night only once each month, while there is no such restriction for men. Hostel wardens are even given the freedom to come for a surprise check and go through the personal possessions of female students.
While prioritising female safety by installing extra security and CCTV cameras are understandable and welcomed, the matter goes out of hand when we are charged ridiculously and asked to cover up ourselves.
Instead of restricting women within the campus, the administration can extend better precautionary measures. The solution to the outrageous fees isn’t to inflate the prices for men’s hostels but to offer consistent and reasonable pricing for all.
It is about time the college and PG administration realises the sheer power of women’s movements. The same movements have overturned biased rules and regulations in several universities.
What is the situation in your university or college? Comment below to share your experiences!