Gender studies


The Gender Studies Cell, St. Stephen’s College, conducted its two-day annual event, Sarfarosh, on the 28th and 29th of March, 2016. With the tag line, “Ae be-baak bol uthein hum, qayyar nahin, sarfarosh hain hum,” the event was a fitting conclusion to the GSC’s year-long endeavour towards dispelling taboos through interactions with activists and 1scholars, unearthing lived experiences in the process.

The event was kick-started by Prof. Mary E. John, Senior Fellow and Professor, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, with her talk on ‘A Silent Revolution? Gendered Intersectionalities in the University today.’ With statistics to back her arguments, Prof. John voiced the question of whether the numbers claiming higher rates of education for women today can be considered a silent revolution. The talk provided insights into the intersection of gender with other axes of discrimination and disadvantage. The instance of administrative responses to cases of harassment was used to highlight the vulnerability of young students, compounded by these intersectionalities. Her ideas provoked thought on the significance of economic policies in dealing with gender problems, for only 15% of women in India are currently engaged in paid work.

The lecture was followed by ‘Navigating Love and Sexuality,’ a workshop by Avani Parekh, founder of LoveDoctor, a platform for help and questions on sex, relationships and abuse, from experts. The interactive session brought to the fore ideas on love and sexuality from the students themselves, in an engaging manner.

The final day of the annual event began with a panel discussion on ‘Praxis Makes Perfect? Theory, Practice and Activism.’ Moderated by Ms. Urni Ganguly, the panel comprised Shambhawi Vikram, Subhashini Shriya, Gourab Ghosh and Dhiren Borisa. The panelists discussed the movements they are associated with, or have organised in their individual capacities, such as Pinjra Tod, Come See the Blood on My Skirt, Kiss of Love and Dhanak. The problems faced in the organisation of such campaigns, and their significance and impact was addressed. The discussion was followed by ‘Sonder,’ an inter-college spoken word event which saw the active participation of members of Parivartan, the Gender Forum at KMC.

“Sarfarosh is a culmination of the GSC’s efforts through the year-of discussing politics of the everyday, of working towards more accessible vocabularies of feminist and queer theory, of destablilising received knowledge-through workshops, poetry discussions etc. The biggest joy is seeing how members of the audience react to these spaces of discussion, truly recognising the transformative power of talking,” said Rene Sharanya Verma, President, Gender Studies Cell.

Abhinaya Harigovind

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In spite of being a sensitive issue, discussions regarding gender and sexuality are heating up all over the country. With a large number of students being a part of the varsity, sharing different backgrounds and cultures, it is a great platform to openly garner different stances. As a step forward in the view of gender sensitization,  The Gender Studies Group, Delhi University has launched four FAQ booklets on the topics – The Body, Sexual Minorities, Sexual Harassment as well as Accommodation in and around the University.

With the recently launched booklets, the Group aims to connect students to the knowledge on these issues. Often not openly discussed, students remain indifferent to the subjects of harassment, abuse and bullying. The booklets provide useful information about the rights of the students and social conditions prevalent in the university. It aims to incorporate students and make them heralds of social awareness and change.

For instance, the booklet titled “Body”, talks about the definition of gender, which includes transgender, consent in a sexual relationship, basic anatomy of the male and female reproductive organs and the misconceptions attached. It also talks about health, hygiene, contraception and date rape. “Accommodation” is another booklet that comprises of restrictive rules and regulations in hostels, especially for women and also cautions them about the forms of harassment that they might encounter. The booklet on “Sexual Minorities” deals with the LGBTQIA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuals, Trans, Queer, Intersex and Asexual — and explains each term. It also embraces the issue of homosexuality and common questions arising in its context as to why, how and if it’s wrong.

Excessively it acquaints students as to how to collectively oppose and protest moral policing, harassment, gender biased rules and violence in the university. These booklets rationally question the myths and taboos concerning gender, sexuality and accommodation. The Group’s efforts are delegated towards guiding students in the right direction and analyse such issues with a coherent and open mind.

The booklets are available at a few places in the University including the Delhi School of Economics. Soon these will be distributed in other places too.

Tanya Agarwal

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Second year students of Lady Shri Ram College have a stream of complaints relating to the lack of choice given between the different inter-disciplinary courses offered by Delhi University. Most of the Honours courses in this college have no say when it comes to which subject they need to opt for, leading to indignation in some students. “We’re being forced to study Environmental History. This really beats the purpose of an ‘inter-disciplinary’ course as we’re still stuck with a subject linked to history. How is this one of the premier colleges of the country when a simple choice offered by the University itself is denied to us?” says Diwita Mathivanan, an angry second year student pursuing History Honours.

This is not just the case with one or two courses. Political Science, Sociology, Psychology and Philosophy Honours students are left with no option but to take up Individual and Society, an English Credit course. “Ideally, we were supposed to be offered a choice between so many subjects, but at the beginning of this semester we were given Individual and Society without any questions asked or opinions taken into consideration,” claims Aarushi Chugh, a second year Sociology student. English is one of the only courses that offers a choice between Gender studies and Philosophy as Individual and Society is a credit course they complete in their first year.

When the teachers were questioned, almost all of them had the same answer. Due to the impossible cut-offs that keep increasing each year, complimented by the equally ridiculous marks doled out by educational systems, the number of students in each course is increasing by a big margin every year. Due to a disproportionate ratio between the faculty available and the students, courses with a larger number of students like History and Political Science are not left with any options for their credit courses.

Another requirement put forward by the teaching staff is that at least one-fourth of the class must be in favour of a particular subject for it to be offered, subject to sufficient availability of teachers. This is leading to the faculty making the decisions themselves and no options are given to the students. There is talk of General Body Meetings being held within the different courses with all the students involved, so that the faculty gets a better idea of what subjects are preferred, but as of now, the students continue to resent the fact that they’re forced to read something  which they would rather not spend any time.