A section of the Muslim community in Kozhikode district took out a protest rally on Wednesday against gender-neutral uniforms in schools, accusing the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Kerala government of “forcing modern dress concept on school children”.
A protest rally was held under the aegis of the Muslim Co-ordination Committee in Balussery in Kozhikode after a government higher secondary school in the area began unisex uniform system (pants and shirts). The new uniform pattern was introduced in higher classes, class 10 onwards, and state higher education minister R Bindu inaugurated the event.
“In higher classes, there are around 200 girls and 60 boy students. Some of the girls are forced to wear pants and shirts. There was no discussion before introducing such a system. It is part of imposing liberal ideologies on students,” a spokesperson of the Muslim coordination committee said. Many others outfits, including the Muslim Students Federation, the youth wing of the Muslim League, took part in the protest rally. No women took part in the protest. The spokesperson also said his organization would extend the protest to other parts of the state if the government insisted on continuing the new system.
Protestors said the new rule infringes upon girl students’ right to wear what they wish. They also insisted that the move was anti-democratic and encroached on women’s right to wear anything they like.
However, Muslim students said the orthodox sections of the community were varied that the new system will hinder the Arab dress culture of burqua (veil), prevalent in schools across many Muslim-dominated areas in the state. “They are pushing us to veil, and they fear their hold will vanish. This is a decent dress, and girls can cover their head also,” said a Muslim student who didn’t wish to be named.
“It is a welcome initiative and will help boost the confidence of girl children. Orthodox sections have no right to dictate,” said women rights activist Viji Palothodi, who fought for the right to sit for sales girls while on duty.
The government, on its party, has pledged all support to the initiative. Many women outfits have also lauded the move, saying it will help bridge the gender gap.
“It is a welcome move. At a time when the world is heralding an age of gender justice and equality, such steps will give the right direction to bridge the gender gap,” said the higher education minister Bindu, lauding students who welcomed the new initiative with open arms.
She said people who love children would not oppose such a progressive step. “When we start a new move opposition is natural. But the government will whole-heartedly support such initiatives,” she added.
School principal R Indu said a decision was taken after consulting parents and other stakeholders. She said the students who want to wear a shawl or muffler due to religious reasons are allowed, and there is no compulsion on the part of the school and asked all to support the new initiative and dump narrow concern.
A school in Ernakulam district, Valayanchirangara government school, started the unisex uniform system in the state in 2017. It introduced three-fourths for all children.People often call it the ‘three-fourth revolution’.