Kerala govt goes soft on gender-neutral dress, says no compulsion

Individuals have the right to select their dress, food and belief in accordance with societal obligations.
Plus-I students of GGHSS, Balussery, in gender-neutral uniform | file pic
Plus-I students of GGHSS, Balussery, in gender-neutral uniform | file pic

T’PURAM/KOZHIKODE: Going soft on the gender-neutral uniform, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Wednesday that his government will not impose any dress code on students. The CM’s statement was welcomed by Muslim organisations. Suitable uniforms can be adopted by each school through talks between teachers, representatives of the Parent Teacher Association and students, Pinarayi told the assembly. “The government does not have a policy to impose any dress code on anyone.

Individuals have the right to select their dress, food and belief in accordance with societal obligations. The government is of the view that no extreme stand hurts these rights. Uniforms are selected by schools. The government has not given any particular direction in this regard,” he said, replying to a submission by K K Shailaja.

“Our aim is to create a progressive knowledge society. Scientific awareness is required for this. Efforts to impose a dress code on anyone, including women, are against the goal. We will not accept this. All sections of people in society should have deserving freedom across religion, caste and gender. We should create a helpful environment for this,” he said.

Welcoming Pinarayi’s statement, Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulema president Syed Muhammad Jiffiri Muthukoya Thangal said, “We are happy that certain portions will be removed from the curriculum framework. Everything against moral values should be removed.” More changes are needed and that will be communicated to the CM during their meeting on August 30, he said.

Kerala Muslim Jama’at president Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musaliyar said the government’s decision is a blow to the forces that are trying to drive a wedge between the government and society. The democratic system stands to gain when the government listens and understands the popular sentiments while taking decisions, he said.

Ensure gender justice first, says Kanthapuram

“Instead of arranging mixed seating and forcing to wear the same dress, efforts should be taken to ensure gender justice,” Aboobacker Musaliyar said. However, Wisdom Islamic Mission general secretary T K Ashraf said there is no reason to believe that the government has backtracked from the idea of gender-neutrality.

“There is enough room to suspect that the government’s move is only an attempt to pacify the agitation. Merely cutting the branches is not enough; the very idea of gender-neutrality should be uprooted,” he added.

Meanwhile, the State Council for Education, Research and Training (SCERT) has issued a clarification in the wake of reports that it had backtracked from the proposal of gender-neutral seating plan in schools.
In a note prepared for public discussion in the run-up to the school curriculum revision, the council had reportedly replaced the words ‘seating plan’ with ‘school environment’.

SCERT director R K Jayaprakash told TNIE, “Initially, a discussion in the context of ‘classrooms’ was proposed. It was the curriculum committee that suggested the term ‘school spaces’ to broaden its scope to include the entire campus, including playgrounds that are usually out of bounds for girl students.”

Muslim organisations are planning to target the handbook for Kudumbashree facilitators. They say it contains “atrocious references against religions” and promotes immorality.

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