While the rest of the world is fighting for women’s equality, the head of a government polytechnic college in Mumbai has decided to revisit medieval times by having separate canteens based on gender.
Thus we have ‘girls only’ and ‘boys only’ sections. What’s more, this head of the institution seems to believe that a hormonal disease like PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease) is apparently because of a mental gender-role reversal caused by dressing like males. So, she has decided that a salwar kameez would be more ‘physiologically’ appropriate college attire rather than trousers and shirts that boys wear.
Reading this will probably make most of us laugh or cringe; believe me, I did both. Yes, people like this do exist even in the 21st century. Most of us will brush this off without giving it a second thought, because it’s so commonplace. We encounter such individuals everyday and choose to ignore them. What makes this incident unique is its being done at a college level by the head of the institution. So the effect is at a mass level and on adolescents who are still developing their personalities. This sends a wrong message to them about how gender issues in the workplace are to be handled.
How wearing certain attire causes any kind of disease is beyond my understanding. Now I don’t have anything against salwar kameezes, but I do not know how they are more physiologically suitable for girls and how it would enhance their performance in studies or in life for that matter. Making such mindless statements reflects the kind of ignorance that is prevalent among people even today.
Girls and boys study and work together today and issues of harassment do crop up every now and then and need to be addressed. While separating the areas for girls and boys will curb these issues in this case only in the college canteen, both the genders will be left with the impression that it’s wrong to interact with each other rather than understanding that harassment is wrong. For women to be safe in their place of education and work, stern action needs to be taken against the perpetrators of harassment of females. The issue needs to be handled sensitively rather than using crude, obsolete methods.
And as for clothes, a choice can be given to the female students so they can choose for themselves.
Stereotyping women and men based on gender specific roles has to stop at this very moment. Interaction with the opposite sex needs to be recognized as an essential part of growing up and should not be discouraged even though old cultural norms suggest otherwise. Segregation promotes sexism rather than curbing it.
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