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‘Lock men, set girls free’: Kerala HC criticizes restrictions on women staying at hostels, asks, ‘why curfew for girls alone?’

"We keep rules for the hostel but relax it for men. That gives the impression that the girls are the problem for all concerns," the Court added explaining that placing limits is not an issue since Article 19 is not absolute. Such limits, however, must apply equally to both men and women and not just one gender.

On Wednesday, the Kerala High Court ruled that if the objective of curfew in women’s hostels of academic institutions is to assure the security and safety of female inmates, then males should be locked up. According to single-judge Justice Devan Ramachandran, enforcing a curfew on the women’s dormitory serves no purpose and there is nothing to be gained by mistrusting the female students.

The Court was hearing the plea filed by some female students of Government Medical College Kozhikode against the notification issued by college authorities restricting female students from going out of the hostel after 9.30 pm. “Lock up the men, I am saying (this) because they create trouble. Put a curfew for men after 8.00 pm. Let ladies walk out,” the judge remarked.

The judge also stated that Kerala is still subject to archaic standards, emphasizing that the elder generation should not be permitted to make such judgments. “How long can we keep our students locked up? Think, Kerala has not grown up and our students are required to be kept locked up. So be it, if that is what society wants. Let not these decisions be taken by people who belong to a different generation. As the saying, every generation is like a new country, we do not have any right to make laws for the new generation,” the Court observed.

It was also asserted that the limitations already in place in their dormitory go beyond the limits of legislative powers granted under Section 42 of the Kerala University of Health Sciences Act. “The petitioners who have attained the age of majority ought to be given the freedom to choose the mode or manner in which they intend to study as long as it does not cause any disturbance to others,” the plea stated.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the judge stated that he is urging society to think about it and that the topic is open for debate if necessary. “When we shut down things like during the COVID times. There were not many crimes other than the crimes within houses. (But) all the frustration was taken on women within the houses. Always the attack is on women. I understand that mental health went down. Open up the city, but make it safe. So the State has the issue to ensure at least the campuses are safe. Parents are scared for their children. They think children will be spoilt if allowed outside after 9.30 pm,” the Court said.

When discussing the restrictions placed on women in society, the court stated that women also have the right to live in society. “What benefit have we gotten by locking them up in the last centuries? Do you think that things are better now? It Is far worse is a general opinion. What have we gained by mistrusting our children, nothing really?” the judge said.

“We keep rules for the hostel but relax it for men. That gives the impression that the girls are the problem for all concerns,” the Court added explaining that placing limits is not an issue since Article 19 is not absolute. Such limits, however, must apply equally to both men and women and not just one gender.

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