PMA Salam, the general secretary in charge of the Kerala unit of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has made contentious comment against gender equality stating that it is risky to let boys and girls sit next to each other in class. The Muslim leader made the statement while criticizing the Kerala state government’s intention to put gender-neutral clothing in the state’s government-run schools.

Salman while criticizing gender neutral policies of Kerala government stated that youth will divert from academics. He added, “It’s hazardous. Why is it necessary for boys and girls to sit in the same classroom together? Why are you making these opportunities or forcing them? It will just create problems.”

He added, “Gender neutrality is not a religious issue but a moral issue. The government is trying to force gender-neutral uniforms on students. Gender neutrality will mislead students. We will ask the government to withdraw this.”

Interestingly, MK Muneer, a senior Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) legislator and former minister, had previously opposed Kerala’s gender-neutral policy by asserting that it would result in the sexual exploitation of young boys and questioned the necessity of filing a POCSO case in the event of a boy’s sexual assault.

The IMUL chief spoke on Thursday at a seminar about the Kerala curriculum held here by the Kerala Arabic Teachers Federation. He added, “Many people are booked over cases related to homosexuality. Why do police register a POCSO case against a man for having a sexual relationship with a boy? If there is gender neutrality, there is no need for such a case. Many people will misuse gender neutrality. Many boys will be sexually exploited.”

Meanwhile Muslim organisations in Kerala have urged the government to shun gender-neutral perspectives in public schools. They claim that the left-leaning state government is trying to impose liberal ideology in educational institutions.

In Kozhikode, a government high school adopted a gender-neutral uniform for the first time in 2020, enabling Muslim girls to wear head scarves and full-sleeve shirts rather than half-sleeve ones. Since then, Muslim organisations in the state have protested against gender-neutral school uniforms, charging that the Kerala government, led by Pinarayi Vijayan, is “pushing modern dress concept on school students.”

A Muslim Coordination Committee-organized protest march in Balussery, Kozhikode, last December against the local government’s norm to higher secondary school’s unisex uniform policy (pants and shirts).

The Kerala Education Minister and CPI(M) leader V Sivankutty clarified that the state government has no plans to introduce gender-neutral uniforms in all schools in response to the growing resentment among Muslim organisations.

He asserted, “A few schools introduced gender-neutral uniforms. Students and society at large welcomed it. But the government has no adamant stand that gender-neutral uniforms should be introduced in all schools. Government is against foisting any type of uniform. It is up to school PTAs, parents and local self-government institutions to decide on uniforms.”

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