Husbands visiting married women in residential degree colleges could distract other girl students — this is the astoundingly flawed logic used by the Telangana government to enforce its decree that only unmarried women are eligible to pursue education in social welfare residential degree colleges in the state.
A notification by the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutes Society specifically stipulates that applications are invited only from unmarried women. This becomes all the more confusing when taken with the remarks by the society secretary that the purpose of these colleges was to break the cycle of child marriages. This is passing strange at a time when India is actively pursuing a women’s empowerment agenda. Women are seeking equality in the workplace and in education.
Education has proved to be a great enabler for an increase in the age of marriage, better health for the mother and child and better chances in the job market.
The Telangana government has no legal or constitutional right to deny unmarried women admission to colleges and this can easily be challenged in a court of law. It is also an insult to women students to suggest that they could be distracted by a visiting husband.
The Telangana government has much on its plate with the prolonged drought, farmer suicides and lack of employment opportunities. The chief minister has been occupied in offering hugely expensive gifts to temples rather than address the problems that the new state is facing.
Child marriage is prevalent across the state and education will not only help curb this but also give new opportunities to those who have been married off early. The state should be actively encouraging women who were denied educational opportunities due to early marriage to get them later.
The diktat is also a denigration of the institution of marriage as though this were a deterrent to education. As it is, women’s rights are not a priority for the government in the state but to institutionalise it smacks of extreme prejudice.
Education at any point in life should be encouraged, especially among women. The literacy rate in Telangana is just 66.5% as opposed to 91.1% in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. This makes it imperative to push education all round. This exclusion of married women also sends out the wrong signal to other educational institutions that might be tempted to follow this route. The state government must scrap this ridiculous rule and ensure a level playing field for all women in the education sector.