Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) broke barriers by announcing its first gender-neutral hostel space. They have also proposed the establishment of gender-neutral toilets. Apart from creating queer-friendly spaces, this is the first time male and female students will be residing in such close proximity to each other, on campus.
It was as recent as 2015 that then Education Minister of Kerala Abdu Rabb said he didn’t approve of girls and boys even sitting together for class. St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi had a problem with male and female students taking the same staircase. Satyabhama Engineering College, Chennai had a problem with men and women speaking to each other.
In 2014, Aligarh Muslim University had banned access to the main library for students from the women’s college. To justify this, Vice Chancellor Zameeruddin Shah had said that women “attract four times more boys”. Smriti Irani had criticized this, but with her own brand of paternalism by saying it was “insulting to our daughters“.
educational institutes are the perfect place to keep genders from mingling with each other.
When the children are not at school, married adults take on the responsibility of monitoring and shaming girls and boys for speaking to each other, touching each other, hugging each other. It’s nothing harmful. Just the creation of a ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ list so that the characters of ‘naughty’ minors can be assassinated, which may affect their relations for the rest of their lives. All in good fun.
Gender segregation begins at a very young age and educational institutes are the perfect place to keep genders from mingling with each other. Young boys, as viewed by those in power, are nothing but hormonal sexual beings, incapable of having personal relationships. Girls are not people, but pure objects who need to be protected from this wild beast of male sexuality, mainly by confining their own movement. The transgender and intersex community do not need to be acknowledged, according to patriarchy.
Separating people based on gender and sex carries forward in adult life too. There is, of course, segregation of professions. More men are found in professions like law, armed forces, engineering and finances. Women are more commonly found to pursue social work, teaching, the beauty industry, etc.
At some religious places, at public places, even at family and social gatherings, one can clearly see how the two genders are separated. A wonderful depiction of these unspoken differences can be seen in the short film Juice by Neeraj Ghaywan, starring Shefali Shah.
We may be a diverse nation, but we are all united by our great fear of men and women seeing each other as people.
Maine Pyaar Kiya taught us that “Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte”. And every authority has turned this into an unsaid motto for running their educational institution and dictating lives. So unknown is the concept of this friendship, that some boys have to ask girls for their ‘friendship’ when they want to date them.
This vicious divide and rule tactic has one antidote: understanding and appreciating one another.
Why is everyone so afraid of girls and boys being friends with each other? Of course, some friendships may turn into romantic relationships. But there’s nothing wrong with it. Also, that’s definitely not a reason to place a blanket ban on friendships.
Friendships are the most equal relationships in the world. There is no superior, no lower. It is a relationship that two people have as human beings, based on their mutual liking of each other and want of company. If boys and girls became friends, they would see each other as equals. As people, with strengths and flaws.
They will share their feelings and opinions with each other. They will stand up for each other. Which is unacceptable to an entire system that feeds off creating differences between the two genders. Boys will not see girls as household labourers to bear their children. Girls will not see boys as a breadwinning authority. This vicious divide and rule tactic has only one antidote: understanding and appreciating one another.
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