NEW DELHI: Female students need curfews to protect them from their own “hormonal outbursts”, India’s women’s minister has said, sparking ridicule on social media.
Many Indian universities inflict curfews on women while allowing their male students freedom to stay out at night, a policy that critics say is sexist and outdated.
Asked about the practice on a television talk show, Manekha Gandhi said it was necessary to protect young women from their own hormones.
“To protect you from your own hormonal outbursts, perhaps a certain protection, a Lakshman Rekha [red line] is drawn,” she said in comments broadcast on the NDTV news channel Monday.
“You can make it [the curfew] six, seven or eight, that depends on college to college but it really is for your own safety,” she told the studio audience of college students during a special show to mark International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
Gandhi said a similar deadline should be put in place for male students, but many social media users ridiculed her for her comments.
“You know what would be safest? Lock hormonal men in, instead of denying women the right to lead a full life,” tweeted one critic.
Gandhi, who is the sister-in-law of opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, is no stranger to controversy.
Last year she angered women’s rights campaigners arguing for a law against marital rape by saying that could not apply in India because society viewed marriage as sacrosanct.
She has also said schizophrenia sufferers shouldn’t work, and called for mandatory tests to determine the sex of unborn children — a practice illegal in India due to the risk of female foeticide.
In 2015, women students in Delhi launched a campaign against the curfews under the name Pinjra Tod (‘Break the Cage’).
University residences generally justify the rules with concern for the safety of young women in a country where sexual violence is widespread.
People took Twitter to express their outrage and called her remarks regressive.
“Maneka Gandhi seems to be having a “hormonal outburst” herself. Did she really say that? Curfew for girls? Happy International Women’s Day,” tweeted author Shobhaa De.
“Madam Menaka Gandhi, I am having a ‘hormonal outburst’ right this moment after listening to you. Please help,” said another Twitter user.
While several of them made personal remarks against the Minister, one user suggested “strategic introduction of sex education to save the youth from hormonal outburst”.
“Dear @Manekagandhibjp we can handle ‘hormonal outburst’ but your ‘patriarchal outburst’ was too much to take,” said Dipsita.
“Verbal outburst is doing more damage than Hormonal Outburst, better control former one,” tweeted Haroon Rashid Bhat.
“Maneka Gandhi’s ‘hormonal outburst’ comment makes her sound like a khap panchayat representative,” posted Kunal Majumder.
Another twitter user posted: “Hostel curfew are required but don’t give such pathetic reasons for some serious issues.”