Indian Educational Spaces - Giving patriarchy a validity

Abhishek Kabra

I was nine when I went on a train with my parents for the very first time. Dressed in a saree, I knew not the identity, that person was trying to portray. With the social built up I was centered in, I was confused but maybe, I wasn’t amidst the ones who were making a mockery after that beautiful person, I stated, weird, the other passengers clarified, went away taking the ten rupees, my parents had put in his fingers. He rubbed his hands over my father’s head and deuta told the  nine-year-old me that their blessings come out to be true most of the times. I was amazed thinking how beautiful humans they are, giving blessings on exchange of rupees ten.

As I grew up gradually breaking the shackles of patriarchy that tried to blanket me right from the time when the girls of my school were asked to decorate the wall with flowers and rest to carry away the heavy benches from my classroom to the function hall, where all our school functions were held. I decided to help in decoration and suddenly, a friend of mine asked if I am a girl. I told with utmost confidence that I am a boy but the question that followed was – Are you a gay? Maybe, that was the first time, I heard this word. But, this gave birth to a curosity to reading and experience the surroundings. By the time I entered higher secondary, I knew the gender equality I kept on speaking about was missing the most important aspect- the colourful rainbow of LGBTQ community.

‘Kaunsi dhaara sabse badtar- teen so satattar, teen so sattatar’ – The slogans of the first pride rally I attended happened to create a huge impact on my mentality and I was happy to see it broadening enough to blanket the entire humanity.

I asked a few students on their views on life in the University campus from the perspective of being the carriers of a queer identity. “Life here is beautiful; not in the way, we are being treated, but in the way, we overcome those treatments,” said a student pursuing M.A in Tezpur University.

Their fight is an example of patience, determination and most importantly a pride, they carry in not hiding their identity in front of the society that judges them from tip to toe and back. 

The School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tezpur University is very active in organizing many seminars and talks on the issues of gender, identity and so on. A seminar organized by the Sociology Department titled ‘It’s a gay world’ marked the presence of a good number of students from the University. There were, for sure many personal invitees too. It was a beautiful discussion on the dynamism of the identity they hold. However, at the end, when the question answer sessions began, one of the presenters described the way he was treated when he wore a beautiful Saree and went to the Tezpur Town. A restaurant at the heart of the town asked him to leave the place saying certain important guests were waiting outside. However, there was none in reality. He, along with a friend went to another restaurant in Tribeni, the literal meaning of which is basically the point where three rivers met; however, the experience did not seem to justify the name where they weren’t allowed to enter a restaurant; maybe it catered to two identities only. However, they managed to get in. They weren’t addressed for a long by any of the waiters. Once they placed the order, it took more than an hour to get a cup of coffee and leave alone, the vigils and glances, they had to meet.

In many cases, educators turn tormentors. Muhammed Unais, a B.Ed student from a college of Kolham in an interview stated that one of is teachers in the class told him that the cure to his homosexuality lay in “Pursuing a girl”. Raghavan, 21, a third-year student in a Chennai College, was asked for sexual favours by the Professors and the refusal of which resulted in low marks in internal exams.

It has never been easy for a person belonging to the LGBTQ community in our country. Though things have begun to be looked up with a relatively more inclusive state of minds and attitudes amidst the people, it wasn’t always the case. Amidst this structured societal norms and taboos, some people took to the stage to be themselves, irrespective of what got thrown in their way. The University’s registration form luckily carried three options when it came to the mentioning of gender which is even an unthinkable issue for many educational institutes. Schools, rarely have those options. As soon as it comes to this aspect of gender, almost every institution has got miles to reach. Their personal world needs to be understood in depths and the freedom they desire need not be a matter of something that is to be granted as a luxury, but that of a basic human right, they deserve to exercise.

 Life for them is not easy, but the most important thing that arises here is that we need to unlearn the existing gender norms to actually inherit gender equality. The gender we have learnt comes from the same patriarchy filled social set up in which we have grown but being students, teachers or parents of today, we need to ensure that the generation that is growing does not get propagated, the historical lessons of gender and precautions that we were asked to maintain. The myth that they have some deformities needs to be rubbed and the Universities are going to play a very important role in it. An academic institution, specially the higher educational institution is a place where the battle of ideas and ideologies take place. Ideally, it is meant to transcend all gender barriers and be the harbinger of change, which is possible if and only the Universities break its own shackles of patriarchy that it has imposed on its students through differential hostel-in times, regulations and highly gender biased norms, following of which makes the gender studies as well as women studies of the University, the lectures on equality, really baseless. And these norms of the Colleges and Universities, in the name of protection, curbs the very basic freedom of non-man community, establishing themselves as stalwarts of patriarchal, with departments of Gender studies creating good number of PhDs every year. Amidst many issues of Indian educational institutions, the myth many educators hold that they know gender equality is actually creating more harm than the most of the patriarch mother or father in laws of the society, as it gives them a validation of correctness for their unequal misogynistic thoughts.

After telling how I learnt about the dynamism, I asked one of my friends, “Are you taking me to the next Pride Rally?” The beautiful human responded, “Yes, we will decorate the walls before the rally and if someone mocks, tell them with love that you too are a rainbow.”

Abhishek Kabra, Department Of Mass Communication And Journalism, Tezpur University, Assam

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May 14, 2020

Abhishek Kabra

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