Endorsing gendered spaces on campus? Central University of Kerala builds separate lunch facilities for its students
The issue came to light when the campus unit of the Ambedkar Students' Association posted pictures of the two rooms with signboards reading 'Gents Common Lunch Room' and 'Ladies Common Lunch Room.'
In what seems to be a move to endorse 'gendered spaces' on campus, the Central University of Kerala, Kasargod has built separate dining rooms for "gents" and "ladies" in their new campus blocks, attracting criticism for promoting unwanted on gender segregation.
Students told TNIE on the condition of anonymity that all the eight new building of the campus have such separate dining rooms for men and women although they are yet to get functional. They doubt the "lunch rooms," as they are called, are likely to become operational after the first-year students join the new academic session on 18 July.
"Different departments of the varsity moved into the new blocks recently. Earlier, they were scattered in four rented-places," a research scholar said.
The issue came to light when the campus unit of the Ambedkar Students' Association posted pictures of the two rooms with signboards reading "Gents Common Lunch Room" and "Ladies Common Lunch Room."
"Central University of Kerala now turned into another realm of gender discrimination. New academic buildings of CUK have separate lunch room for gents and ladies (one the other hand we are happy that they consider students as adults). This is not only in one academic block, that can be seen in eight newly built academic buildings in Central University of Kerala. It's 21st century and we are talking about gender justice in campus and this is the pathetic situation in Central University of Kerala. Nb. This same university recently inaugurated its "centre for women studies," the post reads.
When contacted, one of the activists of ASA said they are waiting for an official explanation from the authorities on the matter. He added that though the organisation is sceptical of the varsity's intentions, they are going to wait till they receive further clarification.
When contacted, members of the anti-discrimination cell said they were unaware of such rooms and hence refused to comment. "I am personally against this move. But no such rule has been implemented so far. So let's not jump the gun," said a faculty requesting anonymity.
"The varsity is located in a rural area. A majority of the students are Keralites, and though it is a central institution, many parents have raised concerns regarding the security of their wards earlier and this might have led to this decision," he further added.
When asked what security guarantee can possibly be achieved by segregating students over lunch, he refused to comment.
S. Anandhi, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies opined that though unnecessary gender-seclusion can't be promoted, there is nothing wrong in having a private space for women. "Some women might feel comfortable in such a room at times. Also, it is not fair to jump to conclusions without knowing the whole story. I can't comment without knowing the situation in the varisty or Kerala. Also, we need to respect and need to be reasonable to parent mentality," she said.
This is not the first time higher education institutions in Kerala have come under scanner for controversial moves targetting gender. SB College, Changanacherry had similarly constructed separate dining halls for male and female students a couple of years back, drawing flak from students, alumni and the general public alike. Farook College Kozhikode was also accused of moral policing when a few boys and girls were punished for sitting together in a class a few years ago.
Students complain that there exist many such unjustifiable irregularities at CUK. "This is just the tip of the iceberg. Earlier, there were varsity-paid cooks in the hostel mess. But they were fired and students were asked to pay additional fee in order to hire new cooks. Misgovernance and injustice are plenty here if you look closely," a student said.