“Gender-Discriminatory” Hostel Rules Of BHU Under SC Lens
The Supreme Court has agreed to look into the validity of certain “gender discriminatory” rules and regulations framed by the Mahila Maha Vidyalaya women’s hostel under the Banaras Hindu University.
Noted advocate and rights activist Prashant Bhushan assisted by lawyer Neha Rathi who appeared for some students brought the issue to the attention of the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
They said the hostel does not allow girls to go out of hostel, even in the campus, after 8 pm, no telephone calls for girls after 10 pm, girls cannot wear clothes of their choice. They cannot wear shorts in their mess, girl students not allowed access to free wi-fi and internet in their hostel rooms. However there are no such restrictions on male students.
Girls also cannot eat non-vegetarian food in the campus, while boys can eat whatever they want.
Girls can't participate in protests, demonstrations or even political debates. These restrictions do not apply on boys.
“The petitioners submit that there have been various instances of gender-based discrimination in the rules and regulations at the Mahila Maha Vidyalaya (MVV) Hostel. A girl student is asked to leave the MVV Hostel if found to be flouting any of these discriminatory rules”, Bhushan told the bench.
“Direct the respondents to change MVV hostel guidelines to bring them at par with the boys hostel guidelines”, Said one of the prayers.
A brief description of the discrimination being faced by girl students at the BHU campus and girls hostel as stated in the petition is as follows:
- Girl students are not allowed to leave the hostel premises after 8 pm even to go to the library or to attend a programme at the BHU campus. Others hostels allow girl students to be out till 10 pm. This rule is even applicable to girl students who may have to catch a train or a bus to travel back home. The boys, however, can stay out till10pm and don’t need permission to step out after the deadline. As per UGC guideline of 2016, no curfew timings can be instilled for students.
- Girl students are not allowed to install w-fi/LAN to access internet in their hostel rooms at MVV Hostel
- The hostel guidelines for girls instruct the girl students to wear “decent clothes” outside their room in the hostel premises. They are instructed to not wear clothes of their choice even in common area and the mess etc. No such rules exist of boys at the boys hostel.
- Girl students are also not allowed to speak on mobile phones after 10 PM and if they are found to be speaking on phone they are asked to put their phone on speaker mode.
- As per the hostel rules, boys are allowed to have their fathers stay over, whereas in the girls hostel no parent is allowed to stay with the student. They cannot even bring any friend, a day-scholar etc in their hostel room whereas there are no such restrictions on boys.
- Girls hostel does not serve non vegetarian food, whereas boys hostel is served non-vegetarian food (menu of both boys and girls hostel attached in the mail)
- As per the girls hostel guidelines, no students are allowed to participate in any form of dharna, protest and agitation. No such rules exists for boys.
It is to be noted that on May 4, 2017 the court had revoked the suspension of eight students of the university and directed its administration to conduct special examinations for them which they had missed due to the suspension.
Bhushan and Rathi, had claimed that the action was taken by the varsity to supress their demands that the cyber library in the campus be opened 24X7, especially during examination time.
The students had staged a hunger-strike for their demand and due to that, the university administration had suspended them.