The Education Department in Palakkad has sent out a "well-meaning" circular to the Principals of all the state schools in the district. The one-page circular signed by the Deputy Director of Education lists three “simple” precautions for keeping girl students from falling prey to boys (or men) who feign love to take advantage of them.
The circular, dated February 10, is absent on concrete details, but plans a three-step awareness campaign to warn girls about the dangers of exploitation. First, there will be lectures to the high-school girls themselves. Second, there will be awareness sessions to parents of girl children during parent-teacher meetings. And finally, short films will be filmed and screened at schools (of course, to girl students only) to highlight the risks of relationships and to “equip them with the knowledge to resist such advances”.
Conspicuously missing in the circular were any measures for educating boy students on how to behave in relationships or in their interactions with girl students.
The measures were formulated by the Education Department, reportedly in consultation with the district collector Marykutty.
"In many places, girl children get trapped in love affairs during their school days, which end up destroying their lives later. There are people who persistently go behind girls, but the girls must be told not to take them seriously and not attribute importance to such advances," Collector Marykutty told Asianet News.
She also rubbished allegations that the circular was issued to prevent love jihad.
"That is not the aim of this circular. Our teenage girls need to be warned against such traps that are lurking around, and the circular was issued keeping in mind the welfare of the girl children," said the Collector.
The Collector’s entreaties, however, did not keep the administration from getting slammed for directing its "measures" only at girl children, in an attempt to "save" them.
What is as horrifying as the contents of the circular, is the fact that such a circular came out in consultation with a woman collector, says Aleyamma Vijayan, co-founder of Sakhi Women's Resource Centre.
Speaking to The News Minute, Aleyamma Vijayan, says, "We continue to live in a society in which we feel the necessity to address only girls, and men can continue to do whatever they want. We still believe that women need to be protected. One cannot take it lightly, that in a male-dominated society like ours, a woman Collector is herself reinstating patriarchal norms," she said.
Elaborating on the life skills classes that the research centre has been organising in schools across the state, Aleyamma points out the necessity to address a mixed group, where both girls and boys are taught the same lessons.
"We feel that there is a huge change in the attitude of the boys, once we are done with the classes. It is through such classes that the boys get to learn more about women, that they need to respect girls, that eventually changes the way they think about women," Aleyamma says.
She feels that giving awareness classes to the parents of girl children is essentially problematic.
"When we talk about parent-teacher meetings, it is often the mothers who turn up for these and not the men in the family. Again, we are addressing women and telling them to protect their girls and teach them how they should behave. The core of the issue is not being addressed at all," Aleyamma points out.