Gender, a concept, has been delicate since the very beginning in India. Indian society has set gender stereotypes for both the male as well as the female gender. Which gender should act how, how should they look, what should they speak and shouldn’t speak, how should they dress, etc. Every Indian is moulded in a specific gender stereotype right from the time they are born.
In a country where ‘only girls’ or ‘only boys’ schools still run, introducing gender-neutral uniforms is a rather vocal and progressive step. Valayanchirangara government Lower Primary School, near Perumbavoor in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, has introduced a gender-neutral uniform for its students, a 3/4th shorts and shirt. Although this was introduced in 2018, it was only implemented for the lower primary section. However, after the schools reopened post lockdown, the same has been implemented for all the sections. What’s even more noteworthy is that this idea was initiated and backed by the parents of the school’s students.
Reading about people pushing for gender neutrality indicates hope for gender equality. For those who are hearing the term gender-neutrality for the first time, it means bringing to an end, the typical job roles defined by society for men and women differently and treating them as equals in everything they do and say with no discrimination whatsoever.
Why do we need gender neutrality?
Introducing something like gender-neutral uniforms at the school level will ingrain in the children’s minds at their developmental stage that all genders are equal and should not be subjected to any kind of discrimnation.
It ensures that the upcoming generations will take India towards a liberal and progressive path finally bringing about a positive social change in the society in terms of gender equality.
When we talk about gender equality, it not just opens up dialogues about women getting equal treatment and opportunities like men, but also brings to the limelight equality to the LGBTQIA+ community as well.
Practising gender neutrality helps to break free from the gender binary and conduct yourself the way you want. It encourages people to practice the true right to freedom and expression.
There are many key factors that help in bringing gender neutrality. Language is only of the most important factors. Even our day to day language isn’t gender-neutral. Even when talking about a person in a second language, we often use the term ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘they’. It all starts with us. We also associate qualities and traits to gender which are almost always stereotypical. Similarly, we also associate what we wear and how we dress to specific genders.
While economic and social steps should be taken to make society gender-inclusive, gender-neutral steps should also be taken at the individual level to make society a truly gender-inclusive space for all.