BENGALURU: Earlier this week, Aligarh Muslim University Vice-chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah articulated why he thinks undergraduate women students should not have access to the Maulana Azad Library.
His justification: it would result in ‘four times more boys’ in the library. Later, the university cited lack of space as the reason for barring girls.
The idea of segregating the genders in educational institutions is not new to India. Or Bengaluru, where dress codes and diktats about campus conduct are imposed in obvious and latent ways on students.
City Express spoke to a few women achievers about the increasing polarisation in spaces expected to be conducive to healthy interaction. Here is what they said:
Shashi Deshpande Novelist
This amuses me beyond words. Do the parents want their daughters 'protected' from male attention in this way? By not being allowed in a library? This tendency to use a woman's intrinsic femininity against her under the argument that she is being 'protected' is outrageous. How can 'women' lure men and how can men be 'lured'? For sure, campus romances can originate in libraries but that is not the only reason why both the genders frequent the place. Also arguing that kissing is against our culture does not make sense.
Not all Indians are yoga masters and not all people in the West kiss on streets. All this is a backlash against women getting some amount of power. Women are independent human beings. They do not need protection. It is men, at least some, who need protection from their ridiculous thought processes.
Vinta Nanda Film-maker
Girls attract boys and boys attract girls. Girls attract girls and boys attract boys. Now once that is settled, why, may I ask, should the attractions form only outside of libraries? I always like those scenes in romantic films where love blooms in a library; where the girl or the boy pulls out a book from a shelf and finds the other on the opposite side!
Kirtana Kumar Theatre person
I loath any idea that segragates. What redeeming argument can be given to keep women out of a library? And so much angst over people kissing? These are such juvenile times. Women today are just expected to shut up and 'know' their place no matter how far they may have progressed. In 1993, I was a part of a project called My Children Who Should Be Running In Open Spaces. It spoke about child sexual abuse and always, the educators were unwilling to have a dialogue.
Institutions want to impose the idea that silence is golden and none of their little impositions should be questioned. Through everything, be it our education system or our advertising, we want to inculcate shame in women. We want them to buy ideas that belittle them, undermine their self-esteem. Be they slimming pills, vaginal creams or the concept that somehow they are responsible for the harm that is done to them. There is a concerted effort today to keep women quiet.
Ammu Joseph - writer and activist
Not allowing women in a library is symptomatic of the instinct to restrict women, rather than the men they are supposedly in danger from. We see similar things happening in the city’s institutions in some way or another. This is a widespread malaise. It is not just AMU...it happens in some form everywhere.
Anuradha H R - founder of Untitled Arts
I think banning entry of girls to the library is just weird. I mean, what sense does it make? After all, if only the undergraduate female students are not allowed, the post-grad girls students will still be around. This is an extreme case, a sexist stance that has shocked people, but Bengaluru isn’t really exempt. In BHS College, my brother was suspended for talking to his classmate, a girl he had studied with from Class 1, in the corridor. My father runs a school, too, so he went and spoke to the principal but he said that it was against their values. My brother, of course, was happy to get a break from college. This was 17-18 years ago, but my younger cousins tell me it’s easier for them to hang out with their girl classmates outside of college than within because if their lecturers spot them together, they’re first warned and then repeatedly picked on.
Even the dress code makes no sense to me. Once you’re in college, you’re all adults and what you do with your bodies is up to you. If you’re really that particular, why not have uniforms — that’s what you do at school, to establish equality. Even at schools, where I’ve often gone for workshops, if I make girls and boys stand together in a circle, the boys refuse to hold the girls’ hands because they say their teacher will scold them. And sure enough, the teacher is sitting right there, watching every move. What kind of message is our education system sending out, really?