When the Balussery Government Girls higher secondary school implemented a gender-neutral uniform for its students on December 15, a few Muslim organisations held a protest march to the school alleging that the government is forcing liberal ideology on school children. The Kerala Education department had encouraged the idea of male and female students wearing pants and shirts as unisex uniforms. However, the collective Muslim coordination committee and Muslim Students Association have protested against it.
"This is a move to force liberal ideology among children. There are 200 girl students and 60 boys in the batch. The authorities have asked the girl students to wear the same dress as that of the boys. If that is the case then teachers (female) can also wear dhoti and shirts. We feel that it is a wrong decision. It was not taken after discussing the matter with the PTA or other stakeholders," Majeed Saqafi, a representative of the collective, told the media.
Higher Education minister R Bindu who inaugurated the new gender neutral uniform of the school, said those who oppose such moves are acting against the interests of Kerala and its future generations.
"At a time when the world is heralding an age of gender justice and equality, Balussery Government Girls HSS has taken a radical step forward. Glad to have had the opportunity to officially inaugurate the school's new gender neutral uniform, which students have welcomed with open arms," Bindu said.
She said there are always people who oppose the new changes.
"However, such people are not protecting the interests of Kerala and our future generations. Those who love children will never oppose such progressive changes. Those who love children will support them to get adapted to clothes that suit our climate and give children freedom of movement," Bindu said. "We are in the works of creating a new Kerala — one defined by equity and sensitivity. To achieve this, our students should first be given access to education in a free environment, unhindered by the burden of society's heteronormative expectations," Bindu tweeted.
General education minister V Sivankutty said the state government will encourage decisions that ensure gender justice.
"In general, the state government wants to provide education without any gender bias. The government will encourage such decisions which will help bringing in gender justice," Sivankutty said.
The State had earlier announced that it would back the idea of gender-neutral uniforms in schools, a concept that was perhaps hitherto unthinkable to students and academics alike.
Nearly a dozen schools in Kerala have already shifted to the new gender neutral uniform.