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The textbook of gender discrimination

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  • Shaji John K
    The textbook of gender discrimination ASHISH TRIPATHI TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ TUESDAY, MARCH 08, 2005 02:18:45 AM ] Sign into earnIndiatimes points LUCKNOW:
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      The textbook of gender discrimination
      ASHISH TRIPATHI

      TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ TUESDAY, MARCH 08, 2005 02:18:45 AM ]
      Sign into earnIndiatimes points
      LUCKNOW: Customary celebration marked with high rhetoric are once
      again being organised on the occasion of the International Women's
      Day, but the harsh reality is that women have not been given equal
      space in the school curriculum, forget about equal status in the society.

      In sharp contrast to the goals defined in the Indian Constitution and
      new education policy, Bharat Ke Mahan Vyaktitava, books prescribed
      under Education For All for class VI, VII and VIII are not only
      unscientific as they depict 'mythology as 'history', but also promote
      stereotype model of women, strengthening patriarchal set-up.
      Significantly, the series was especially designed to inculcate human
      and moral values among children though examples of Indian historical
      personalities.

      But sample this: Out of total 100 Mahan Vyaktitva (great
      personalities) of India mentioned in these books, only 17 are women,
      which include mythological characters like Savitri, Gargi and Apala.
      Barring chapters on Mother Teresa, Bachendri Pal, Mirabai, Annie
      Besant, Sarojini Naidu and Lata Mangeshkar, others are those who
      belonged to royal families, ruled their territories after death of
      their husbands and fought enemies like 'men'. Besides, total 15
      chapters are on mythological characters.

      The first chapter in class VIII is on Savitri, a mythological
      character. It narrates story of a woman, who persuades Yama, the lord
      of death, to give back life of her husband. In the end the chapter has
      a message: "Savitri is an ideal for millions of Indian women". The
      chapter on Apala in class VII appears as an advertisement of a beauty
      product. The story is about another mythological female character,
      deserted by her husband because she had white spots on her skin. She
      worships Indra, king of Devas, who blesses her in the end with a
      'glowing beauty'.

      Says Rakesh Chandra, reader in the department of philosophy, Lucknow
      University, who has done extensive research on the character of
      primary education in UP, "Our Constitution directs state to develop
      scientific temper among people. Education policy of 1986 prescribes a
      secular curriculum, which means distinction between mythology and
      history".

      "India has also signed Convention for Elimination of All
      Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979, article 5A and 10C of which
      states that member countries will intervene to put an end to all sorts
      of gender bias and inequality in the syllabus," he said.

      However, Chandra said, the books in questions tell about mythology of
      a particular religion and present a woman, who is ready to be sati
      with the dead body of her husband, as role model for girls. "One
      wonders why freedom fighters like Aruna Asif Ali, Captain Lakshmi
      Sahgal or writers like Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Mahadevi Verma or
      first Indian women doctor Anandi Gopal and 19th century educationists
      like Sister Subalakshmi, Ramabai Saraswati and Rukkaya Shekhawat
      Husain have not found any space," he said.

      "Such books make negative impact on the psyche of a child and also
      produce psychological conflicts," says PK Khatri, head psychology
      department, National PG Degree College. "While on one hand they are
      exposed to contemporary world with role models like Kalpana Chawla and
      Sania Mirza, in books they are taught to consider a mythological
      character as ideals," he said adding "this cements age-old
      unscientific beliefs and on the other hand can also produce a
      backlash, where a child may develop disrespect for such characters."
      Further, he said, it also alienates children belonging to other
      religions.
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