While institutions in states like Karnataka and Rajashtan are mandating salwar kameez uniforms, a Kerala government primary school has done away with distinctions in uniforms of boys and girls. Girls at Valayanchirangara Government Lower Primary School will now get to wear knee-length shorts with pockets — the same as boys.
According to the school’s headmistress Raji C, gender-neutral shorts and shirts were introduced for all classes to facilitate easy movement and challenge the idea that girls can only wear skirts. She told The Hindu,
“This is particularly convenient for girls who can play easily now…We were initially worried about the reaction from parents who might want their girls to continue wearing skirts. But most parents have welcomed the idea.”
The uniforms were introduced last year to pre-primary sections and have been rolled out for all the classes this year. The school is managed by an all-women team of teachers and staff. In a separate initiative, the school introduced a group health insurance policy for students earlier this year.
Long way to go
The Kerala government school remains one of the few schools to implement such an initiative. Last year, Rajasthan college education directorate issued guidelines on dress code to be followed in government-run colleges. The circular mandated male students to only wear shirts and trousers and female students to adhere to salwar kameez or saree and blouse. In 2016, the Karnataka government said that girls studying in government-run high schools would have to wear salwar kameez uniforms as “it would make them feel safer”.
Future is gender-neutral
A few pioneering programs have rolled out across India ensuring gender equality in schools. In 2018, Society for People’s Awareness, Care and Empowerment (SPACE), a Delhi-based NGO, collaborated with the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education to create awareness about the needs of gender non-conforming and transgender students in schools. They also set up workshops tackling gender-based bullying and voiced the need for gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender students in schools.