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‘A Woman’s Duty is To Follow Her Man’: Rajasthan Textbooks

Women are depicted solely in the domestic sphere, and not playing sports or holding any positions of leadership.

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India
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The deep-rooted and all pervasive gender bias in our society is not only being propagated, but also encouraged and normalised in the revised edition of English and Hindi school textbooks in Rajasthan. According to a report by the Times of India, explicit instances of male superiority are being amply highlighted within the same.

The Class III Hindi textbook chapter titled ‘Games’, has three photographs only showing boys playing common sports. Reportedly, according to Devyani Bhardwaj, an academic who scanned the revised books, the previous books were balanced in their representation of the sexes, and women were adequately represented if not equally.

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A Class VIII book contains a chapter on Sant Kanwar Ram, a Sindhi poet and it states that a woman’s duty is to follow her man. It showcases how the poet had six children, three each from his two wives.

Bhardwaj claims that the entire chapter reflects male privilege and reinforces the prevailing idea that a woman’s job is to bear children.

A Class VI chapter titled ‘Gulab Singh’ gives another example of how a girl who was willing to participate in a protest was denied the opportunity to. Her brother on the other hand was allowed, and she was allowed only once her brother died. This may signal that girls are not the first choice when it comes to portraying courage or bravery.

Chapters dealing with virtues like valour, courage and bravery are explained using male characters. Women are merely represented in the domestic sphere, and not holding any positions of power as leaders, or policy makers, as noted by Rajeev Gupta, the former HoD of the Rajasthan University.

Schools play the most important role in shaping a child’s worldview. Rajasthan shows up in some of the most troubling statistics pertaining to the discrimination of women.

Rajasthan has one of the lowest sex ratios and has the highest percentage of girls married between ages 10-14.

In such a scenario, it is imperative that children be exposed to gender equality in all realms from a tender age.

The role of textbooks and teachers is to provide a solid counter-narrative to the kind of regressive social relations that exist, and empower women from a very young age so they can believe that they can achieve anything.

(With inputs from The Times of India.)

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