Female students in Delhi were told they would be locked inside their student halls for almost 24 hours over the Holi celebrations, to protect them from sexual harassment on the streets.
Delhi University International Student House for Women said that ““Residents and female guests will not be allowed to leave or enter the premises from 9 PM on March 12 till 6 PM on March 13. No late night permission will be granted on March 12 and those desirous of playing Holi should go outside the residential block within the hostel premises.”
Although the annual celebration of Holi is normally a joyous Hindu festival marking the arrival of Spring, many believe that the fun, carefree atmosphere means normal social rules regarding sexual harassment are relaxed.
The President of Delhi student hostels union, Sabika Abbas Naqvi told The Guardian: “The idea of consent does not exist during Holi.”
“Women are deleted from public spaces during these festivals because of the fear of harassment. The men can remain free and roam about, but the women, who are the supposed victims, need to stay inside– it’s atrocious.”
An all-female hostel in the city also sent out a note informing occupants that its main gate would be closed from early Monday morning until the evening.
University of Edinburgh exchange student Sophie Whitehead, was one of those locked in her dorm, and described the experience as “degrading” to The Guardian.
“It’s a strange feeling to be completely unable to go out,” the 21 year old said. “I understand that Holi can be dangerous, there’s big crowds [and] probably a risk of groping. And there’s been a lot more men out on the streets over the past few days, so I think it would be better to avoid the crowds.
“But we’re old enough to make our own decisions. It’s quite degrading – we can’t even leave to grab a drink or food.”
India’s Minister for Women and Child Development, said on national television that early curfews are necessary to protect students from their own hormonal outbursts, with his remarks causing a further backlash across the country.
Pinjra Tod, a student led group which was set up to ensure non-discriminatory gender accommodation for female students across Delhi, described the statement in an Instagram post as “deeply patriarchal, casteist and classist.”
The group went on to write: “Our “hormonal outbursts” rips apart their attempts to control our desires and dreams! Our “hormonal outbursts” will not be fooled by your jumlas of ‘safety’! Our “hormonal outbursts” refuses to be reduced to anatomy and biology! Our “hormonal outbursts” will be your nightmare!”