S Baskaran, headmaster of a government higher secondary school in a village near the temple town of Madurai has a solution to prevent lewd comments and stares from teenage boys – by draping the women teachers in dark overcoats.
After this thought occurred to him, he invited the Madurai district chief education officer and education officer to distribute black overcoats to eight teachers at the Government Higher Secondary School located at Vannievelpatti village of Periyarur taluka of Madurai district on Monday.
Renuka Devi, education officer, who was present on the occasion when chief education officer J Angelo Irudhyaswamy handed over the black overcoats to the teachers, told HT over phone from Madurai “the school headmaster conceived of the idea and is being tried out as an experiment in the school. The teachers there were very supportive of the idea.”
“I have received several calls from teachers of different schools nearby, lauding the move and asking for similar coats for them as well,” Baskaran said. Such uniforms would protect teachers from lewd comments and stares from students, he said.
However, dress code came in for criticism from women activists who described it as a “sad development”.
“It is unfortunate that things are coming to this pass. At first, I don’t know whether to laugh or feel sad about this kind of trend that is happening, dress code for this and that,” said Mangai, a theatre actor and women activist who uses only one name.
Describing it as repressive, she feared that moves like this would eventually hurt the women only as adverse reaction from boys could be in the form of acid attacks.
R Gita, advisor to Women’s Struggle Committee, a confederation of women’s organisation of Tamil Nadu, laughed at the idea.
“Then why not a dress code for men too? Actually, it is more of a mind thing and mere dressing would not prevent sexual harassment and rape cases,” she said.
What is needed is inclusion of gender equality and caste equality in curriculum, from primary classes upwards and with examinations on that subject, she said adding “otherwise, no one would take these subjects seriously.”