It was a role play in which boys shook hands with girls, however, it got to the goat of the principal in Coimbatore’s Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology. Resultantly, the teacher for communicative English who facilitated the role play was at the receiving end. She was given a lengthy lecture on how to protect girls from boys.
“I got a call from the principal’s office asking me to meet him in person, she recalls. “Several thoughts enveloped me as I had seen the principal near my class while teaching sessions were on. When I finally met him, to my great surprise, the principal asked me to stop the practice of role plays involving girls and boys. He said that he noticed boys shaking hands with girls during my communicative English class. He did not stop at that. He explained that how such things will lead to immoral practices like falling in love, which would eventually spoil the lives of girls. Although, many questions rose inside me, I suppressed them thinking that those queries might cost me my job.”
The incident comes close on the heels of a circular issued by Sri Sai Ram Engineering College in Chennai which highlighted prevailing gender discrimination in engineering college campuses across Tamil Nadu.
The controversial circular, issued specifically for girls, has stringent rules and regulations. It begins with strict dress codes for girls, including a ban on wearing jeans, leggings and ‘tight dresses’. In the latter part, the circular instructs the girls not to talk to boys and bars them from using Facebook and Whatsapp. It further states that the college does not allow any celebration, including birthday. It also prohibits girls from carrying mobile phones and commuting to college on two-wheelers and four-wheelers.
Some of the students launched a protest at Anna University, to which Sai Ram college is affiliated to, demanding the withdrawal of these stringent rules. However, the college dismissed the circular as a handiwork of some miscreants to tarnish its image. Meanwhile, students, teachers and parents in Tamil Nadu are not at all surprised by the circular as it is the norm in most of the engineering colleges across the state.
The colleges are basically catering to the demands of the parents. Parents prefer colleges which have strict rules and regulations in place, as they feel such institutes would ensure safety of their daughters. So, that is the reason why some of the most popular colleges in the state impose such primitive guidelines.
Situation in some of the technical institutes in Tamil Nadu, especially the ones under Anna University, are quite similar to a prison. With segregated spaces and different set of rules for girls and boys, these colleges also indulge in moral policing. Female students are constantly pushed to the margins, deepening the gender divide and instilling fear, insecurity and low self-esteem among them as well as male students.
Instead of addressing the real issues behind the violence against women, educational institutions and the society, as a whole, are becoming over protective towards girls. This protectionist attitude is making girls more uncomfortable, forcing them to stay away from places which are rightly theirs too. “This is nothing but gender apartheid,” says Vasanthi Devi, former vice chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. “Our educational institutions are very patriarchal in nature as most of the restrictions are imposed on girls. Parents are only bothered about marks and getting a better placement for their wards.