People are entitled to freedom in matters of dress, food and belief: Kerala CM

The CM said, in the state assembly, it was the prerogative of the educational institutions to decide what kind of uniforms girls and boys should wear.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (Photo | Express)
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (Photo | Express)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the wake of criticism of Kerala government's gender-neutral policy, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said that the Left dispensation was not going to decide what kind of uniforms children should wear to schools.

The CM said, in the state assembly, it was the prerogative of the educational institutions to decide what kind of uniforms girls and boys should wear.

The state government's gender-neutral policy, especially regarding uniforms, has been criticised by leaders of Congress ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and various conservative Muslim religious organisations.

The CM was responding to a submission by LDF MLA K K Shailaja that gender justice and equality has to be ensured for women and transgenders by the government by taking everyone into confidence. He said that the state government does not intend to impose the same kind of uniforms for boys and girls in schools.

The respective educational institutions, their teachers, PTA and student representatives should discuss and decide on appropriate uniforms and implement the same, he added.

"It is not the policy of this government to impose any kind of dress on anyone," he said and added that no specific directive has been issued in this regard. People are entitled to every freedom in matters of dress, food and belief and there can be no extremist view regarding these.

He further said attempts to impose a dress code, including on women, are a hindrance to "our cause" of building a progressive knowledge society. The government believes that all sections of society should have the freedom they deserve irrespective of their caste, religion and gender.

We need to create an environment conducive for the same, he added. IUML MLA M K Muneer had last month criticised the state government's purported gender-neutral policy with regard to schools and uniforms worn by students. He had questioned why boys cannot wear churidars instead of girls wearing shirts and trousers.

When the Balussery government girls higher secondary school in Kozhikode implemented the gender-neutral uniform for its students in December last, a section of people under the collective of a Muslim coordination committee staged a protest march to the institution against the new unisex uniforms.

They had contended that the decision amounted to insulting the modesty of women and that it was part of "imposing liberal ideology" among students.

They had described it as anti-democratic and encroachment of people's right to wear anything. Nearly a dozen schools in Kerala had already shifted to gender-neutral uniforms at that time.

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