Kangaroo Courts (Khap Panchayats), Indian Universities and Female Genital Mutilation

Is female genital mutilation practised in India? Wait till you get to the last paragraph to find the right answer.

Trust our authorities to make totally uncalled for and utterly irresponsible and reprehensible statements and cause tsunamis when there is not a ripple in the calm waters of academia and everything seems to be hunky dory between the student community and the faculty. Sometimes it is about how female students should dress and sometimes about how harmful a cell phone is to their own safety and security. Only the other day, some college authorities in Bengaluru hit upon the revolutionary idea of asking female students to fill out a questionnaire which probed into their personal space by asking questions like their before-and-after-college-hours-contacts. When confronted by the Media about the propriety of taking such action, the authorities surprised one and all by enlisting the support of the parents of the very same female students whose basic right to privacy they had tried to violate; the parents, they would have us believe, wanted the college authorities to keep track of the movements of their female wards even after college hours!  Hence their attempt to put a tab on the hapless girls. What would they think of next? Implant a chip on their body? Carry out frisking and cavity search, maybe?

In the latest of this season's funny shows, restrictions have been imposed on access to a library in the premises of Aligarh Muslim University by its female students. The rationale behind such a unique move has been the apparent apprehension of the university authorities that female company on the portals of the library would be detrimental to the advancement of the male students' academic excellence! So, give the dog a bad name and hang him! Or should I say her?

When it comes to telling women of our country what they should do and what they should not, there is a virtual stampede of men, falling over each other, vying to profer unsolicited advice regardless of their own credentials or locus standi to address the issue at hand. Women don't have to think for themselves or take decisions regarding their own lives. It has all been so very thoughtfully and conveniently outsourced to the menfolk. Never mind the question of women's empowerment or human rights which constitute but a trivial matter to be relegated to the realm of mere statistics in our scheme of things.

So what if India lags behind sub-Saharan States in matters such as mortality rate or malnutrition of female children? Proud inheritors that we are of arguably the most ancient civilization in the world and a very rich culture which dates back to the hoary past of Ramayana and Mahabharata, where is the question of our being compared with some unheard of African countries?  Such a comparison would not only be unpatriotic or demeaning but even tantamount to an act of sacrilege. The world had better take note that we are a nation of worshippers of goddesses,   We are, as such, the rightful guardians of the typical Indian value system and women's morality. In any case, how we treat our women is nobody else's business, innit? Discussion over.

When are we, as a nation, going to, if at all,  grow out of the warped mindset  bequeathed to successive generations by a procrustean patriarchal society which betrays no sign of slackening its stranglehold on women who are equal stakeholders, just as men, in the country's inexorable march to economic development and the withering of social disparity?  If centres of higher learning are not going to set an example to the rest of the nation by treating their female students on an even keel with the male ones, and continue to behave like glorified khap panchayats, as they have been doing from time to time, it would not only be a case of meting out insult to our daughters as correctly pointed out by HRD Minister Smriti Irani, but also one of gross violation of human rights and natural justice. All right thinking people should ask themselves as to how different curbing a female student's access to library is from the barbaric practice of committing female genital mutilation. Woe betide a country which refuses to desist from committing the folly of discriminating against one half of its society and allowing male arrogance and dominance flourish and thrive!