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Maharashtra – Std XII book drops `ugly women pay more dowry’ para

Rahi Gaikwad
Following a nationwide furore, embarrassed state govt makes changes to Std XII sociology textbook chapterEducationists say such content is not the way to make students aware about social problems, call for better screening of textbook writers

A paragraph on dowry has been removed from the Maharashtra state board’s Std XII sociology textbook, months after the content led to a nationwide furore for listing `ugliness’ as one of the reasons for “more dowry“. A chapter titled `Major Social Problems in India’ read: “If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes very difficult for her to get married. To marry such girls, bridegroom and his family demand more dowry.Parents of such girls become helpless and pay dowry as per the demands of the bride groom as family. It leads to rise in the practice of dowry system.“

The chapter goes on to explain how `kulin’ marriage ­ a marriage between a man from a higher caste and a woman from a lower caste ­ can also result in a bigger dowry demand.

The deeply regressive content, which was circulated on social media in February, was slammed by citizens, including educationists, forcing state Education Minister Vinod Tawde to issue an explanation that the content was an attempt to explain social reality.

Mumbai Mirror has learnt that the embarrassed state government issued a notification to the affiliated schools in April that the paragraphs have been dropped from the reprinted versions of the textbook.

“For the books already printed, we have issued instructions to divisional boards that the particular portion stands cancelled. We have also given directions to Balbharti, the state board’s textbook publishing bureau, to delete the portions from the reprints,“ Krishna Kumar Patil, secretary of the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, told this news paper. The textbook is authored by six people, and also discusses gender inequality and domestic violence. The chapter lists 12 major causes for dowry demand, including “expectation of the bridegroom“ and “compensation principle“.

Professor PG Jogdand, former head of the Department of Sociology at the Mumbai University, said removing portions from the chapter on dowry was a case of better late than never. “This is not a good way of explaining the practice of dowry as it also shows the handicapped in a poor light. We do have to orient students to the social problems but we cannot comment on someone’s handicap,“ Jogdand said.

This is not the first instance of school textbooks’ content raising eyebrows. In May last year, it was reported that a Std VIII textbook of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education had erased Jawaharlal Nehru and his role as India’s first prime minister, and also Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination by Nathuram Godse. A month later, it emerged that another textbook of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education, in a chapter on Sindhi poet Sant Kanwar Ram, said it was a “woman’s duty to follow her man“.

While Tawde told Mirror that a panel of “experts“ decide the textbook contents, educationists insisted on a process to ensure the content was free of bias. Professor Jaswandi Wamburkar, formerly associated with the writing of Std VIII history textbook for the state board, said having reputed academicians on the textbook committee could help check biases in content.

“The process of scrutiny is already very stringent. After the textbook committee prepares the final draft, it is given to teachers for reading. Perhaps the process of selection of writers needs to be done more meticulously,“ she said.

Vibhuti Patel, head of the Department of Economics at SNDT, who specialises in Economics of Gender Development, lamented that textbooks were “known to have many generalised notions about women’s roles, including that of homemakers“.

“To avoid them, selection of textbook writers should be based on academic rigour and record of publications.There should be intensive training in gender sensitivity, sensitivity towards multiculturalism, and human rights,“ Patel said.

http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/index.aspx?eid=31821&dt=20170627

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Comment (1)

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    The deletion of the para on ‘ ugly women’ from the sociology textbook is a victory for the activists. They have succeeded in making the rulers drop such illogical regressive statements

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