The Education Minister of Kerela, the state which just announced that it is getting ready to set up a first-of-its-kind gender-focussed research-oriented university in the country by the end of next year, doesn’t agreeto the practice of boys and girls sitting next to each other in class room”.

PK Abu Rabb backed his statement by mentioning the exhaustively-used shield of “culture”, saying, “Kerala does not have a culture of boys and girls sitting together.” It seems surprising that the State Government is planning international collaborations and exchange programmes for the gender varsity with a number of global pioneers in gender studies, including The London School of Economics, but still believe in gender-segregated classrooms. I wonder whether the education minister is aware of the cultural difference that might act as an hindrance to their ambitious plans of international collaborations.

The comment asking for gender-segregated classrooms in university  does not seem surprising enough, considering our politicians have a history of foot-in-mouth disease. It is the orthodox comments like these by authoritative people that lead to norms like women-only compartments in metro trains and women-only police stations.

What is worth asking is the kind of research the varsity will fund produce, the kind of conferences and discussions it will engage in, and the type of study material that will make the cut in the syllabus. Will the education minister and other authorities of the upcoming university be comfortable with the idea of, say, students discussing while sitting together (yet separately based on their gender), the impact of BDSM in pornography on feminism?

The quality of educational institutes in India has been dwindling down, even as more and more institutes are announced to be in the pipeline. More IITs and IIMs were included in the 2014 and 2015 budget, when the quality of faculty and research in existing ones should have been the priority. The political interference in several media institutes across the country haven’t gone unnoticed, especially after the FTII debacle. Revolutionary chapter on ‘Socialism in Europe and Russian Revolution’ or the coming-of-age classic ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ would be no longer a part of the syllabus for Delhi students from class VI to X.

A Facebook post by a lecturer from a college in Kerela had allegedly got him expelled for supporting Dinu, the student who refused to comply with a written apology for sitting in a mixed-gender group in classroom.

Alas, the scrapping of the section 66A of the IT Act from the constitution is not enough to protect a lecturer of his position when he expresses his opposition to gender-segregated classrooms at Farook College on social media; just like building a university with a focus on gender research won’t guarantee substantive research or progressive outlook to gender and sexuality.

As long as we have incompetent people with orthodox views as people in power and position of authority,  India will continue to achieve things on paper, but never in realityAll I hope is that the education minister doesn’t forget to ask for creation of separate seats for students not identifying as either gender.

Featured Image Credit: Pankaja Field Clicks

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