Kerala, which boasts of being the most literate state in India, also has a college where boys and girls cannot be seen seated together, having food together or even acting together on stage. The college, Farook College in Kozhikode, has come to the limelight after it suspended a degree student who protested against the management’s decision to crack down on boys and girls sitting next to each other in their class.
Farook College is an autonomous institution under Muslim management in Kozhikode. The suspended student, Dinu K, was among nine boys and girls, who were asked to leave their classroom after they were found sitting on the same bench. While eight students reported back to the college with their guardians after being asked to do so, Dinu refused to abide by the diktat, leading to his suspension. The Kerala High Court has put a stay on the suspension. But the entire incident reveals the conservative mindset of the management.
Farook College is one of the many colleges in the Malabar region in Kerala where gender segregation is still being practiced in the name of culture, tradition and ‘protection of the weaker sex’. Not only this, Dinu told a news channel how class division for BA first year is done on gender basis at the college. Once when a girl student fainted during an exam at the same college, a woman teacher had to be called to lift her up as the invigilator was a male.
Surprisingly, even the Kerala Education Minister has supported the management’s stance. He has said: “As Education Minister, I do not agree to practice of boys and girls sitting next to each other in class room. I have no issue if they sit on separate chairs.”
This makes me wonder where we are heading to? Are our steps going backwards into the Dark Ages when women were forced to practice purdah and when their voices were silenced in the name of tradition and their entire identity was reduced to just being a mother and wife? Is a woman meant to just bear children and rear them up? Is her life meant to be spent within the four walls?
More and more women are proving their mettle as extraordinary entrepreneurs and visionary CEOS, celebrity role models and billionaire activists, foremost heads of state and philanthropists who are transforming the world – all ranked by dollars, media presence and impact. Would this be possible in Farook College? I will say NEVER.
Gender segregation to this extent at educational institutions is uncalled for, irrespective of religion or tradition. In today’s world when women are finally able to walk hand in hand with their male peers in education and career matters, such retrograde practices must be shunned.
College is perhaps the first place where young boys and girls get to know each other and develop healthy relationships. Segregation is most likely to send a wrong message of ‘The Other’ concept to their young minds, affecting their future prospects in career and even relationships.
If at all the management is concerned about rapes, as claimed by its supporter on a news channel, it can teach martial arts to its students and empower them.
It took thousands of years of struggle by countless women to make us stand on our own feet with an identity of our own, and such gender bias threatens to put us back behind the four walls in the name of tradition and protection.