On the day the Class 12 board results were announced, Shikha Patel, 18, made a list of dresses that she decided she would wear in college.
When she was leaving her village in Sehore district for Bhopal– a dream for most youngsters of the village–Patel thought her dream was about to come true.
But the day she got admission in the college and she came to know that she will have to follow a dress code like she had been doing all those years in school and her hopes were dashed.
Not just the dress code, girls are supposed to follow a list of official and unofficial do’s and don’ts while entering the campus and until she remains there.
There are eight government-run colleges in Madhya Pradesh–five are girls’ colleges, one boys’ college and two co-education institutes– that have implemented the dress code.
In the girls’ college at Bhopal, apart from a dress code, there is a ban on the use of mobile phones and covering one’s face with scarves on the campus.
Unofficially, there is a ban on wearing high-heels, dark-colour lipstick, piercing one’s face and sporting fashion accessories.
Girl students say that with so many restrictions, they don’t feel that that they are in a college.
The Sarojani Naidu Girls Post Graduate College (Nutan College) recently introduced a dress code and girls who have taken admission to the college are upset about the restriction.
Vishakha Sen, a second year student from Narsinghgarh, said: “There is no end to school life for girls in Madhya Pradesh.”
“When I was in school, I led a life according to my family. But now when I am in college, teachers ask us to live according to the will of the administration while in the college and I was free to do what I like in the evenings.
“When I decide to roam around in the evening, Nirbhaya police patrol advises us and give us a moral lesson life…”
To look different, girls have got their clothes stitched from designer boutiques.
“We adopted a new look with designer clothes and at times professors scold us but they don’t force us to get new dresses stitched. Besides, we have learnt to sport different hairstyles,” said a first year student of the MLB College, who did not want to be named.
Defending the dress code, Nutan College principal Vandana Agnihotri said, “Girls can live their life of their choice after college hours.”
“ Students come to college to study and have to follow discipline. We have banned mobile phones on the campus and classrooms but they are free to use it outside the campus or wear any dress…,” she said.
Prathana Mishra, a women rights activist said that patriarchal mindset should not be promoted in the educational institutes.
“People still think that girls who live their life of their own choice, provoke boys and they can stop such thing by telling girls what they should wear and what they shouldn’t. This thinking is totally wrong,” she said.