This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by shinjinidb. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The AMU Library Controversy: How ‘Culture’ Can Be Used To Reinforce Prejudices

More from shinjinidb

By Shinjini Devbarman:

When Sheikh Abdullah and his wife Waheed Jahan Begum had started the Women’s College of Aligarh Muslim University, back in 1906, they wouldn’t have imagined that the same university will be accused of gender bias 108 years later. What had started out as a high school was converted into a fully fledged college in order to encourage women’s participation in higher studies. Over time, it has established itself as one of the pioneer institutes of India with a wonderful reputation, until now.

Picture credits: Thakur Vishant Singh on Facebook
Picture credits: Thakur Vishant Singh on Facebook

When the new students’ union of the Women’s College appealed to the Vice Chancellor for the inclusion of women in the central library, the VC rejected it by saying they would attract “four times more boys” leading to the problem of space. In another statement, he added that the problem of eve teasing is also a threat to the security of the female students. The principal of the college added fuel to fire by objecting against girl’s access to the library which she says could lead to discipline crisis. Furthermore, in a television discussion on the topic, a professor from AMU was reported quoting “cultural constraints” as the reason for the exclusion.

I want to start a conversation about ‘culture’, a word that has come to be associated ominously with almost every argument in India; the notion that it carries an essential quality that defines what Indian society is. I mean how many times have we heard this – using ‘culture’ as a defense for justifying unequal treatment? Our level of tolerance has gone down and so has their ability to come up with better excuses. I want to study how the word has in the present times come to normalize an idea of Indian society.

Let me first start with the gender issue:

Our ‘culture’ has normalized the idea of ‘boys can’t control themselves, so let’s lock the girls in’ as a solution to the problem of eve teasing. Going by this logic, women should just stop stepping out of their houses because some rowdy men cannot respect women. The suggestion then seems to be that women should have to adjust themselves to the situation because ‘prevention is better than cure’. Indeed the cure, which would ideally be discouraging impudence on the part of those rowdy men, is itself missing from the discourse. Why do we always come up with some warped notion of what one should and shouldn’t do, instead of facing the real issue head on?

Moreover, the VC’s statement reinforces absurd gender stereotypes of women as seducers and men as sexual predators. It is ridiculous to suggest that the solution to the problem of eve teasing is by compromising on the freedom of women. If it is the security that concerns them then it is the responsibility of the institute to ensure that the students feel safe on campus, instead of preaching lessons on moral correctness.

Differential treatment, even if done with the best of intentions, is not the answer to the problem; in fact it only makes one party feel inferior to the other party. Denying women access to the library is also a form of the same systematic oppression that denies education to women.

As if that wasn’t enough, the media didn’t fall short of bringing in the politics of hate into the discourse. What ensued was a protest march by the students of the Women’s college accusing the media of using a defamatory campaign against the institution. What was supposed to be an administrative issue in addition to outlandish remarks running along the lines of sexism, it now also included the prejudices that feed the flames of communalism. The students accused the media of biased reporting, and a gross abuse of their power. As the students echoed the idea of ‘daughters can’t be against their fathers’ (father would be the VC in this case), and as the media reprimanded the university for its regressive tactics. the situation became the perfect ground for prejudices to be reinforced.

Now, let’s talk about how dangerous such a mad use of language can be:

It didn’t take long before certain antagonistic sections of the society ran the issue along the lines of religion. I myself came across many hateful speeches in the comment section of various news articles. They were harsh and ruthless – using an issue for provocative statements meant to stigmatize a group. Evidently, as a result of the kind of discussions that took place in the sensationalism driven media, the students had taken upon themselves to show the world why we should refrain from derailing from the main issue. Indeed, while the rest of us were focusing on critiquing gender biased statements, all of us steered clear of touching this sensitive topic.

In India, it is very easy for a small issue to turn into a raging controversy regarding religion and culture. It is our responsibility to monitor the issue at hand and prioritize on how to handle it. In my opinion, all of us are at fault here. The VC for his careless remarks regarding gender, the media for its devious ways of making News and the rest of us for letting this issue slip into that deep dark hole where there is only hate and despair. Prejudices only hurt and restrict. On the offset, there are two things that we can do – deal with the issue at hand and find out the way to solve it, or let it slip into something vain and inane that could only make the matter worse. Using the concept of ‘culture’ to force diktat is always going to lead to the latter. So, let us stop preaching to each other what ‘Indian culture’ is. It is a dynamic concept that evolves with time; it is never a relic of the past, especially not a retrograde past.

You must be to comment.
  1. AMU Student

    This is keeping women’s safety in mind, as women flood the library at night, putting themselves at the risk of getting molested/raped.

    1. Voice of reason

      WOW your University is so bloody pathetic that you feel female students will be raped in libraries. Seriously why do you even go to such colleges man. I did my engg in Mumbai and guess what the college library was open till 8 Pm at night for both Male and Female students, and i am sure no one ever got raped…

      Instead of taking the universities visibily flawed side, why don’t you make situation conducive for a women to study in library

    2. AMU Student

      A girl can get raped on the way to the library and back, obviously not in the library.

    3. TheJKid

      A girl can get killed from driving back home. So should we ban females from driving? Think logically AMU student.

    4. Riad

      stop creating a fake profile with AMU students name and defaming us by posting shit

  2. Green Lantern

    Hi,
    A good Muslim woman must serve her husband, as her happiness lies in contentment and service to her husband. She must be a good, obedient wife to experience bliss, as this competitive world has turned her into a machine. A woman can be banned from entering a library but no one is banning her from her heavenly duty of serving her husband. Therein lies real bliss and spirituality, which worldly things cannot offer her.
    Love,
    Lantern

    1. Cees Tompot

      What happened to your brains mr Anonymus?

    2. D Gill

      Marriages are a partnership dear, not a dictatorship. No one enjoys being controlled, even if it’s embellished by saying it leads to bliss and fulfillment. It most certainly does not. Human beings have minds of their own and should love and respect each other, not control. thanks. Controlling a human being under the guise of culture and/or religion is utter rubbish. When will humanity see the light?

More from shinjinidb

Similar Posts

By Siddharth Mohan Roy

By Kshitiz Siwakoti

By Ananya Anand

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below