Regressive rules hamper female students

Akshara Srivastava and Bharat Sharma

CHENNAI, Feb 22: Colleges in Chennai have been infamous for enforcing regressive rules pertaining to dressing and intermingling between male and female students. Justified in the name of maintaining discipline, these rules are mostly patriarchal and oppressive in nature.

The crackdown is usually on female students because of an enforced dress code which forces them to cover up. Calling it the “proper” way to dress, colleges have a plethora of instructions laid down for girls, which range from wearing only suits to covering their pelvic areas. They’re also disallowed from wearing short sleeved or sleeveless tops complemented by a full-fledged ban on skirts and shorts.
Such rules are not specific to co-ed institutions but are also laid down in women’s colleges. “We were never really given a real reason for it, except that during cultural activities boys also visited and hence the cover-up,” says a student from MOP Vaishnav College on the condition of anonymity.

Major engineering colleges, like the Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) have stricter rules that and no redressal mechanisms.
Apart from a strict curfew and its stringent enforcement, the college has also specified the time limit of a handshake between a male and female student.
“We are not allowed to physically embrace each other in any way except for a handshake, which too is supposed to last not more than five seconds,” said a student on condition of anonymity.
Apart from laying down such a peculiar rule, VIT also has an official disciplinary committee, which comprises ‘Red-Tags.’ These Red-Tags are guards with a red ID card who ensure that no sort of physical interaction occurs between students. “They often stand behind bushes as if hiding there, or you’ll feel their eyes on you from afar. It’s all extremely creepy at times and makes some of us uncomfortable but we can’t raise our voices or complain to the management,” said another student on the condition of anonymity. VIT has disallowed its students from forming a union.

The staff in the disciplinary committee seems unfazed by such draconian policies. “Our work is to enforce the rules,” said one.
A teacher at another premier engineering college in the city remarked, “I don’t see anything wrong with the rules. They are made keeping in mind our culture and are necessary to ensure that vulgarity is not displayed openly, especially by students coming from cities like Delhi and Mumbai.” The teacher requested anonymity.