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After years of discriminatory rules, women in India are protesting a new set of restrictive dress codes being enforced on college campuses.
Recently, St. Xavier College in Mumbai, a Jesuit university, added ripped jeans to its list of banned clothing items, along with tank tops, shorts, and short dresses. Like many colleges, Xavier also imposes an earlier curfew on female students than male ones.
“In the name of safety, you can’t police women and impose these patriarchal, discriminatory rules,” Devangana Kalita, a former Delhi University student, told Reuters. Kalita is part of the organization Pinjra Tod, which has protested these rules in cities across India.
Colleges are defending the dress codes, saying they encourage modesty, and that parents will complain if their daughters aren’t “protected.” Critics say the policies, especially curfews, keep women from accessing work opportunities available to male students. But they also encourage a culture of victim blaming, in which women are told to stay inside and dress modestly to avoid attacks, instead of men being taught not to attack and victimize women no matter what they’re wearing or what time of day it is.
Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'