Himanshi (name changed on request) manages her family during the day and prepares for the Indian Administrative Service Examination after sunset. She attends coaching classes in one of the private coaching institutes in Uttar Pradesh’s GTB Nagar.
But this arrangement can no longer go on as the state government has restricted late evening coaching classes for women claiming their safety.
“Safe City Project” was launched by the UP government in a bid to ensure safety for women, children and older citizens. It has prohibited private coaching institutes in Gautam Budh (GTB) Nagar during late evening classes for female students.
A directive sent by the Uttar Pradesh government to the private coaching centres in Gautam Budh Nagar states, “Coaching (centres) in which the girl students are studying should be conducted till 8 pm. If any coaching centre is found operating after 8 pm, punitive action will be taken against them.”
Saxena told Maktoob, “Becoming an IAS officer is my dream and my husband is supportive and got me admitted in the coaching to pursue my dream. He goes to work during the day as I look after the home and our kid, once he comes back I go for the coaching and he looks after everything.”
She said, “This directive is going to hamper my dream and simultaneously our schedule which we have planned very carefully to support each other’s career.”
While she is yet to receive any notice from the institute where she is enrolled regarding the change in the timings of the classes she still thinks it is going to affect her and many like her and believe that the UP government is discriminating against women.
“The government seems opposed to women getting education because if it was about safety, there are many things they can do to ensure that but this is directly going to affect women who don’t have an option other than attending night classes”, she added.
Female students, who are largely going to be affected by this move, are however of the view that restricting women’s movement and not letting them study during or after a particular time is not going to stop crime against them.
Sarmadi Hassan, another student preparing for the Uttar Pradesh State Commission Examination in GTB Nagar thinks while the safety of women should be the biggest concern for the government, the measures taken to ensure it are not appropriate.
Hassan has been staying in Mukherjee Nagar, the hub of competitive coaching institutes in GTB Nagar since 2019.
“The responsibility of women’s safety should be on the government but caging women in the name of safety is nothing but a discriminatory practice,” she said.
“If the government is interested in ensuring our safety, they can adopt better means than to just curtail our right to education and movement.”
She also thinks there is a need to take collective steps where civil society and the government can come together and adopt a few steps to help make the surroundings safer for women.
When asked what it could be, she suggested, “They can run awareness programs regarding women’s safety, they can ensure better and safe transport to the coaching for women and building residential coaching institutes.”
“But why bother on making the environment inclusive for all genders when the government can simply lock the women inside and the problem is solved, according to them”, said Hassan mockingly.
Maktoob reached out to Vimla Batham, President of the UP State Commission for Women (UPSCW) to understand the dynamics of the guideline and how prohibiting late evening classes for women is going to ensure their safety.
Batham refused to share her opinion on the matter stating, “I am not the right person to comment on this” before she disconnected the call made by Maktoob.
It is noteworthy that Batham represented the Noida Constituency of Uttar Pradesh as an elected Member of Parliament before she took charge as the Chairperson of the UPSCW in 2018 and she is associated with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party.
Directive is Discriminatory
Dr. Samina Khan, a professor at the Department of English at the Aligarh Muslim University also believes that India cannot become a progressive society if women are left behind or given limited opportunities.
Former executive member of the Centre Against Sexual Harassment and For Gender Sensitization also known as the Internal Complaints Committee in the varsity, Khan said, “It is no hidden fact that women had to fight for most basic freedoms and this kind of regulation further substantiate it where women are being held back in the name of safety.”
“There is a great need for the government as well as for the society to work to evolve the community so that a female can feel safe while attending late night classes or going to work or simply roaming around without any fear.
Khan added, “While this can be one of the preventative measures, as per the legislators, it is certainly not a solution. Caging women is not a substitute for their safety.”
She further said, “Government can provide safe transport for women, there can be more patrolling in the areas around the coaching centres and most of all there should be awareness campaigns for the younger generation and elderly to educate them about women’s safety and liberty.”
According to Professor Naima Gulrez, Principal of AMU Women’s College, restrictions on late-evening classes for female students are justified if ‘it concerns their safety’.
Gulrez, who is running for the post of next Vice Chancellor of AMU said, “If it is being done to ensure women’s safety, then the directive is okay, safety is important.”
When asked if restricting women’s movement at night is going to lessen or stop crime against them, she said, “Obviously this is going to deprive women of getting an education but safety is important.”
“Proper arrangements should be made concerning their safety and security”, she lamented.
When told by the reporter that crime against women also happens during the day she said, “Yes, that’s true but during the night the chances of crime against women manifold.”
Rising Crime Against Women in Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh tops the list with the highest number of 65,743 cases of crimes against women under the Indian Penal Code and Special and Local Laws alone, as per the latest data revealed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its annual report accounting to the distressing surge of 4 per cent in total in India since 2022.
The NCRB’s report also pressed for the urgent need to strategically address the alarming increase in crime against women across the country.