IntersectionalityGender No More ‘Sir’ Or ‘Madam’ In Schools, Only ‘Teacher’: Kerala’s Child Rights Commission Proposes

No More ‘Sir’ Or ‘Madam’ In Schools, Only ‘Teacher’: Kerala’s Child Rights Commission Proposes

The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, KSCPCR has expanded the proposal in the state of Kerala considering a petition filed by a person on gender-biassed greeting in schools.

Despite the directive of the State Child Rights Commission on 15 January 2023, V. Sivankutty, the Minister of General Education and Labour of the State of Kerala, mentions it is not formally under sanction by the Government of Kerala. However, it is in consideration, Manorama News Report.

In 2022 government-aided Senior Basic School at Olassery village in Palakkad District became the first educational institute in the state of Kerala to introduce gender neutrality in addressing everyone as ‘teacher‘ instead of using the separate designation ‘sir‘ or ‘madam‘. As per The Indian Express report, H. Venugopalan, the school principal, was persuaded by a social activist Boban Mattumantha, his espousal for gender neutrality in language and the practice of not addressing government officials based on gender distinction. The principal said the transformation would aid students to enlighten of gender righteousness as well as in expurgation of gender breach in the educational expanse.

Lately, in an action to upgrade gender neutrality in expression, the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, KSCPCR has expanded the proposal in the state of Kerala considering a petition filed by a person on gender-biassed greeting in schools.

In fact, the use of the term ‘teacher’, a new objective that schools in Kerala have introduced, is appropriate and compliant because it recognises the individual based on their profession rather than gender. Similarly, for instance, addressing ‘nurses‘ as a replacement for identifying as a male nurse and female nurse in their professional houses, it is crucial to replace the use of ‘sir’, and ‘madam‘ in school, college, and other educational institutes, where the use of addressing is regularly and continuously performed. 

Also Read: Kerala School Introduces Gender-Neutral Uniform: Looking At The Larger Picture Of Educational Reforms

What and why of gender neutrality

In general, the term gender-neutral defines a word which is not associated with either woman or man but rather purposes to avoid gender-biassed, discriminatory practices in the language without implying one sex or social gender on the individual. Unlike the concept of gender equality that weighs equal rights of every gender, the undertaking of gender neutrality considers every individual equal regardless of gender. Discouraged the use of the gender-specific title in the professional domain such as chairman, policeman or policewoman, male doctor, or female doctor by replacing chairperson, police officer, or doctor, the concept of gender neutrality aids gender-based progression in public. 

Today, gender neutrality swaps the female fashion trend. It licenses each individual to dress, perform, style, and use language without gender bias. For instance, with the use of nail colouring, piercing, and lipsticks that are conventionally considered for women, men are not discouraged from following similar fashion trends, similarly, the inclination of women for bib pants, bow ties, bob-cut hair, and others are encouraged. Mixing the fashion trends, it expunges the awkwardness of biassed societal notions and stipulates a comfortable space for every gender. 

Apart from gender neutrality in norms, to treat all genders equally and appropriately, the concept of gender-inclusive language matters more in political space. It reflects the promotion of social change and reduces gender prejudices in society, in which Oxford uncovers the fact that the earliest recorded use of ‘they‘ as a gender-neutral personal pronoun was in the fourteenth in a French poem called William and the Werewolf.

Also Read: Ignorance Is ‘Not’ Bliss: Need Of The Hour To Sensitise Doctors & Medical Staff On Gender

The brief attempt to use ‘they‘ as a singular gender-neutral pronoun in the 1880s kept unpopular. Subsequently, several others, for instance, the European Parliament on the use of titles such as ‘Madame‘, ‘Mademoiselle’, and ‘Frau’ originally indicated the marital status of the woman has changed over the years for the reason it reflects the quality of the individual. The title ‘Mademoiselle’ was progressively being deleted from administrative forms in French-speaking countries, leaving only the choice between ‘Madame’ and ‘Monsieur’. In Parliament’s texts, titles such as ‘Monsieur’, ‘Frau’, ‘Ms’, and more are often simply dropped in favour of the person’s full name, notes European Parliament guidelines.

While it is an increasing tendency to the use pronoun ‘they’ instead of he or him, she, or her, and many, derivates, ‘they’ therefore does not specify one gender, it echoes all gender in one pronoun. It promotes the idea of ‘themselves’ in everyone. Avoiding the combined forms such as he/she, him/her, s/he, and generic use of ‘man’ in social media, and official documents moreover create rationality among gender.

Lopsided opinion

Following an Instagram post by Prag news official on January 8, 2022, regarding the instruction of addressing all teachers as ‘teachers’ in a school in Olassery village in Kerala, the post has drowned many critics. The critique states that the new step taken by the school is baseless and imprudent. The comment section also criticises the recent practice of using pronouns on social media by tagging several individual accounts on the same post. It is obvious that of any subject matter, there should be two sides, one that supports the topic and the other one that stands against it. Combining the opinion of both parties, and later only by cross-examining the statement the system duly forwards it to the public.

In India, a country that assures democracy for every citizen, the right to question the system is a requirement. While several independent media, newspapers, magazines, and podcasts update and attempt to provide clean and transparent news to people, the individual also possesses the right to have an opinion on it. However, with the propensity to criticize every point media creates, it is imperative to study the matter before forwarding it to a second person. 

Analysing the other side of gender neutrality, The Gender Neutrality Project, in its 2018 survey conducted on a majority of Americans, reports that gender-neutral pronouns for everyone reduce instances of misgendering, and it also reduces opportunities to acknowledge gender identity. Similarly, considering the censures of the introduction of gender-neutral uniforms in Kerala, the criticisms addressed that shirts and pants as a ‘gender-neutral‘ uniform inflict a more male-centric dress code.

Later controversies trigged around the promotion of gender-neutral uniforms, and disapproval happened to question stating why boys should not wear a shirt and skirt the same as girls are supposed to wear shirts and pants in schools.

Also Read: NCERT Manual & Gender-Sensitive, Trans-Inclusive Approaches To Education

Despite criticisms, to identify the reason for the introduction of gender-neutral uniforms in schools, in a report by Manorama news, the former headmistress C. Raji of Valaychirangara LP School states, “such an idea struck when it was noticed that the girl students were participating very less in sports items compared to boys due to the discomfort they face while wearing skirts”. Similarly, the present headmistress T R Suma addressed, “we spoke to girl students and understood their difficulties before introducing the new pattern“. 

When it comes to gender-neutral addressing in schools as ‘teacher’, even if it is dissimilar from the concept of gender-neutral uniform in schools, the bias-free language in greeting, perhaps be outlandish same time headway in a state of India, that a country finds eccentricity in accepting the choice of a boy to wear a skirt. Thus, the sudden advancements of gender neutrality are an open sheet that can either complicate the system of students who supposedly practised the use of ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ in schools over the years or can be a progressive pace for the future. 

The government decides the rest

The creation of a progressive society aiming required knowledge and awareness of the attempts to impose gender-neutral reformation in educational institutes entails more consultation, states The Hindu

Even various schools have set forth the idea of gender neutrality with the aid of their self-governing institutional members and students. The rest is in the hands of the state government, which believes the reason why, yet the proposal of gender-neutral addressing is in consideration.

In the last few years, Kerala bestrides above all other Indian states for its highest literacy rate and quality education. The recent introduction to gender neutrality in schools has suddenly become a focus of discussion. Having said that, Kerala is procuring quality reformation in its system today. It may outbreak criticisms the next day if it does insolence the limits.

Respecting the boundaries and the choice of everyone. It is necessary to ensure the course of action that the government formats are appropriate and acceptable to all. Hence, acclaiming gender neutrality in words later enforcing certain customs on a group of individuals is discomfiting. It conceivably backtracks the restructuring.


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