Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who has frequently advocated women’s empowerment, today made a statement that left her college-going audience speechless. Speaking to NDTV, Ms Gandhi said early curfew in hostels could be necessary as it is a matter of safety.
Asked why girls in hostels should have an early curfew and not boys, Ms Gandhi 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. It really is for your own safety.”
Asked if the matter cannot be solved by tightening security at women’s colleges, the minister — who was speaking to NDTV at an interview regarding the International Women’s Day — said, “No, not by two Bihari gentlemen at gate with dandas (sticks). It has to be solved literally by giving time limits for everything…. Give them (boys) two nights to go to the library and two nights for girls — if you want to go to library, that is.”
On being questioned why boys should be treated differently, the minister said, “Yes, so maybe the same deadlines should be there for both boys and girls… Why should the boys be allowed to wander about in the campus after 6’o-clock? Let them also stay in and do their work.”
Last year in March, speaking at the 60th session of the Commission on the status of women, Ms Gandhi, who is the minister of women and child welfare, had said the Government of India “remains fully committed to advancing the goal of gender equality and empowerment of women, and to eliminating all forms of discrimination against women”.
It was also at her initiative that the government had redrawn the national policy on women. Steps have been taken towards “awareness generation and starting sensitisation programmes to fight social prejudices and stereotypes,” she had said at the time.
Moral policing by the state had become a matter of debate after two policemen in Kerala were caught harassing a couple at a public park in Thiruvananthapuram last month. As the young man involved had live-streamed the event on Facebook, the state police faced a barrage of criticism from the social media.