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Woman and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s comment on how curfews in women’s hostels are justified given the “hormonally challenged” nature of teenagers sparked off protests from female students, who raised slogans outside the gates of her Shastri Bhawan office in Delhi Wednesday.
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In a television interview, Maneka, replying to a question by a college student on why hostels impose a deadline on girls and not boys, had said, “As a parent who’s sending a daughter to a college — or a son — I would expect her and him to be protected. And perhaps one of the protections is against themselves. When you are 16 or 17, you are also hormonally very challenged. So to protect you from your own hormonal outbursts, perhaps a lakshman rekha is drawn.”
Maneka told The Indian Express that her statement was not intended for female students alone. “In my interview, I specifically said that these rules should apply to both boys and girls,” she said.
The protesters, led by the students’ collective Pinjra Tod, with female students from Jamia Millia Islamia, South Asian University, JNU, DU and Ambedkar University, demanded a public apology from the minister. In a memorandum submitted to the minister’s office, they also asked for revoking discriminatory hostel rules that impose late-night curfews on female students.
The students pointed to how just this week, Mumbai University decided to lift the night curfew on girls’ hostels and that Delhi should follow suit. Shubhashini, law faculty, DU, who was part of the protests, said, “Maneka Gandhi might have said it is both for men and women but if you look at rules and institutions, there is no equal treatment.”
“What is this lakshman rekha? She gave such a statement as she’s under pressure from women across universities saying we will not accept these restrictions,” said Devangana Kalita from Pinjra Tod.