Maharashtra sociology textbook includes single-parent, same-sex families
A few years ago if sociology students were asked about what types of families existed in India, a textbook response was guaranteed: two types, joint families and nuclear families.
But this may soon be changing. The Maharashtra government has revised its Class 11 sociology textbook, which now lists a number of families seen across the country now: single-parent families, live-in relationships, families with same-sex parents, and those with step parents.
The textbook published by the state’s publishing bureau, Balbharti, has been introduced from the current academic year (2019-20) as part of the curriculum revision exercise for Class 11.
The book talks about same-sex marriages, gender equality and the blending of different cultural influences -- a phenomenon known as cultural hybridisation -- in the age of social media.
The decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relationships forms an integral part of the module on family, kinship and marriage. “In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court of India on September 6, 2018 decriminalised Section 377 of the IPC and allowed gay sex among consenting adults in private…,” reads a line from the chapter.
While introducing the concept of cohabitation as part of a newly introduced module on ‘Twenty first century families’, the book speaks of live-in relationships and states that “younger generations specially in many parts of Europe and in urban areas of India are preferring cohabitation as family relation. This is especially true about same-sex couples… live-in relations or cohabitation might not lead to marriage,” reads the text. In 2013, the Supreme Court said live-in relationships were “neither a crime nor a sin” and in 2018, reiterated that adult couples had the right to stay together without marriage.
Vaishali Diwakar, chairperson of the subject committee that framed the new curriculum, said a need was felt to teach sociology with the help of contemporary references while challenging existing biases. “The committee was of the opinion that students need to learn more than just the concepts. We also wanted the book to be a reflection of the changing social fabric,” she added.
While talking about the need for gender equity, the chapter on social stratification poses a question: “Where are the women?” while highlighting the demands of a truly gender-equal society and economy - paying women equally, giving them rights to a healthy living, rights to participate in policy decisions .
“The text helps link concepts in sociology to our lived realities which makes it relevant. For students to become critical about issues, they first need to know the changes that are taking place in our society,” said Trupti Vaity, subject head for Sociology at VG Vaze college, Mulund.
Dr Joseph MT, assistant professor at the department of Sociology, University of Mumbai, said that such changes would help develop the idea of plurality from an early stage. “Having said that, I think that teachers also have a great role to play in determining how a subject is taught. One cannot say that merely including something like this would directly influence the life choices of a person but showing that these realities exist is extremely important,” he added.
In one chapter, mass media is mentioned as one of the agencies of socialisation. It also has a box titled “How real are the reality shows” which argues that reality shows tend to normalise bullying and the use of harsh language. While explaining the concept of social change, students have been asked to google “punk hairstyle”.
“The concept of cultural hybridisation is explained with an illustration of a hijab-clad Barbie doll, “These are the images that children see all around them which interests them in knowing the underlying concepts,” added Diwakar.
Prachi Sathe, chief coordinator, Balbharti said that the idea was to make textbooks more relevant to the current times. “We had some key objectives while preparing the new textbooks- making topics relevant and explaining them in the Indian context being the important ones, which is reflected in all the new textbooks this year.”
Vaishali Joshi, associate professor of Sociology, St Mira’s College, Pune said that while the concepts of cohabitation and same-sex relationships had a passing reference in the previous version of the book, they are now looked at from a broader perspective. “ We are not just saying that same-sex relationships exist but are putting across a point that such couples are very much a part of our society. We are hoping that this would help remove the taboo associated with non normative relationships. The decriminalisation of homosexuality has acted as a good starting point for this conversation,” she added.
Some of the new additions
- Rapid growth of divorce, increase in the marriage age: One of the most striking features of the modern society has been the rapid growth of divorce. The average age at which people get married is also increasing along with the increasing trend of individuals not getting married.
- Same sex relationships: Today the concept of marriage is enlarged to include homosexual relations. Same-sex marriage or gay/lesbian marriage refers to marriage of males or females respectively, who are physically, emotionally and sexually attracted to the members of the same sex.
- Work from anywhere: Laptops, mobiles and accessibility to information technology can turn any space into a virtual office