For ensuring safety and security to women, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has suggested to Justice Verma committee that co-education system should be abolished in the country.
Below is the full transcript of the show:
Sagarika Ghose: Hi there. We are continuing our relentless focus on 'Agenda For Change'. On this show we look at the mindset change that is required to make India a more gender equal society. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, an influential Islamic organisation, believes that co-educational schools are bad for women's safety. The JIH has written to the Justice Verma Committee that co-ed schools should be abolished. We're debating that in the quest for gender justice, do we need more or less co-educational schools. Joining us, Abusaleh Shariff, columnist, former member of the Planning Commission. We are also joined by Lata Vaidyanathan, principal of Modern School, Barakhamba Road. We also have Mohammad Saleem Engineer, he is the national secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind., that is the group that is calling for abolition of co-educational schools. And Meera Isaacs, principal of The Cathedral and John Connon School of Mumbai.
Agenda for Change is our focus. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has called for abolition of co-education, but are co-ed schools necessary to reduce crimes against women?
Mr Mohammad Saleem Engineer, why does the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind want to abolish co-educational schools? Why are you against co-educational schools?
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has given 11 suggestions to JS Verma committee for reducing crime against women in India.
Sagarika Ghose: Mr Engineer we are focussing in our programme on what you have said on co-educational schools. If I could request to kindly speak on question related to co-educational schools.
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: Well it is not justice to just listen to the half version of what we proposed. We want women should be dignified, she should be protected. The crime against women should be dealt strictly. And criminals should be punished, and we are of the opinion that co-education is one of the reasons by which if we provide separate educational institutes, and separate transportation for women with safety measures, we can reduce crime against women. In the name of giving gender equality, or in the name of giving similar status to women, women are being exploited.
Sagarika Ghose: Ok, let me put a question to you, co-education is promoting nudity and western culture, is that what you are saying?
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: No, I'm saying that we can reduce crime against women... Government is doing that, it is opening women's college, women's school, separate coaches in trains, buses, then why not in education. And let me ask you one question, we are providing condom machines in public places, it creates such kind of atmosphere. And co-education promotes it.
Sagarika Ghose: Let me put a question to you, this is coming from Sherry Sabharwal, professor of sociology at Punjab University has a question for you, let's listen into that question.
Sherry Sabharwal: I want to ask, What would the next step be? Will you stop men and women to work together in offices? Will you stop men and women to walk together on streets?
Sagarika Ghose: What would your next step be, will you separate boys and girls completely? Will you separate men and women in offices? Will you separate men and women on the streets?
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: India is a democracy , everyone has a right to suggest how we can save Indian society, how we can save the dignity of women. How we can save our Indian society from the cultural invasion of the west.
Sagarika Ghose: So you mean there should be a complete segregation of society... segregation will lead to protection, and segregation will lead to safety of women. Let me bring in Lata Vaidyanathan who is a principal of a co-educational college. Lata Vaidyanathan do co-educational institutes lead to endangering women? Do women face prodigious from male class teachers? Do they face uncivilised behaviour from their male classmates?
Lata Vaidyanathan: Sagarika, respectfully I disagree with my colleague who has been expressing his views. I would like to say that facility provided any where in the country in bus or train etc. must be completely delinked from education. Education has a much larger purpose. And I think by providing co-educational schools, we have seen it in so many years and our experience tells us, that provides them level playing field. It develops age appropriate sensibility. Things between boys and girls at school are at a very respectable level. I would also like to say that it is easy to communicate, children are less curious as they grow up together in a friendly atmosphere. And I think they debate and discuss, they play together, learn together. When we have to send out children from school, we send them together so that they are better protected in society.
Sagarika Ghose: Let me bring in Meera Isaacs of The Cathedral and John Connon School of Mumbai, Meera Isaacs as Lata Vaidyanathan stated that in fact co-educational schools build a gender understanding and equal society, but on the other hand there are many educationist we think academic benefits of co-educational institutes are not very high. Boys and girls get distracted; they don't pursue their academics as they should. How would you respond to that criticism?
Meera Isaacs: I would certainly not say that for the simple reason that we have children all the way from age 3 to 18 and this is normal, natural way of growing up, that is what the world is all about. And that is the macrocosm which is reflected in the microcosm of the school. Both the gender grow up together, of course as they grow up there is going to be a certain amount of attraction. But the fact remains they know how to be courteous to each other, they are taught various things.
Sagarika Ghose: But surly the has to be not just co-educational schools but also the curriculum that is taught in those schools, and the kind of attitude of teachers. Mohammad Saleem Engineer you are hearing a range of educationalist, who are actually saying that you are out of sync with the modern time. In fact girls do better academically if the compete with boys, if they compete with the cross section of the society. So are you worried that you are running against the modern spirit?
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: We are not against modernism, we are not against technology, we are not against education. It is the duty of the government to provide education to both boys and girls. One of the reasons of girls being deprived of education is co-education.
Sagarika Ghose: That is am interesting point, let me put that to Lata Vaidyanathan.
Mohammad Saleem Engineer:Make a survey of the institutions which has co-education, and make a survey of institutions which are purely for women education, and find out the crime rate there.
Sagarika Ghose: Lata Vaidyanathan respond to what Mr Engineer is saying. Actually more girls will go to school if there are schools for girls.
Lata Vaidyanathan: Sagarika let's look at the whole society anywhere in any parts of this country, I think, the options are provided. Whoever wants to send their children to a girls or boys school, the options are available. But my take on this is that if there is a co-educational school, I mean, you can't say that by having girls schools or boys schools the enrolment will be higher. In this society you need to learn to work together, you need to learn to live together. You also need to make those sensibilities clear so that this kind of discrimination in public spaces...
Sagarika Ghose: As you said in fact that you don't agree that academics suffer, that there is distraction if boys and girls study together. Let me just get the views of some students and teachers from Army Public School in Bangalore.
Nirupama Kaushik (teacher): Instead of look to abolish co-educational institutions, they should allow and sensitises children about the problems in the society with regard to mean and women.
Aditya (student): Co-educational schools are a good mode of interactions between the opposite sexes. It helps us to socialise and prepare for the future.
Tanya Patil (student): The problem is with our mentality and psychology, that is what needs to be changed. So if we want to tackle this problem at grass root level, I think it should start from schools.
Sagarika Ghose: Let us get in some twitter reactions now, Satyaprakash Lele is writing, "Co-education can be a tool to educate boys how to respect the girls as equals. Bringing them closer shall build better understanding & respect for each other. Meera Isaacs let me again put the point that Mr Engineer is making that there is crime in co-educational schools. That in fact there are teenage pregnancies, there are instances of pornography, there are case of crime against women that happen in co-educational schools, it that also a reality that we have to look at?
Meera Isaacs: Look, I think, we have to take things in its correct prospective. I mean we are acting like we are bringing young criminals in co-educational schools. I would like to say that mine is a 153-year-old school and I can speak very clearly about that. And just as Lata says there is no question, girls as competitive, inspirational. They do wonderfully well in different walks of life. There is no question of this pornography and stuff like that. If a person wants to look at pornography he can look at it anywhere.
Sagarika Ghose: Mr Abusaleh Shariff someone who has studied Muslim socio-economic conditions so closely, do you want to speak directly to Mr Engineer and tell him why is he so wrong.
Abusaleh Shariff: No, the most important thing is that the national prospective and the need for the Muslim community is that the government should not agree to take away co-educational system.
Sagarika Ghose: So do you think Mr Engineer is detrimental to Muslim interest.
Abusaleh Shariff: Mr Engineer has his right to establish his own college or institutions and he can do it.
Sagarika Ghose: Do you want to respond to what Mr Abusaleh Shariff is saying, that you setup your own educational institutes, why should you demand that the government ban all the co-educational schools.
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: See, we are citizens of this country, we elect the government, we can demand if we feel something is good for the society. It is for the government to decide whether they want to accept it or not.
Abusaleh Shariff: You do not sell this as a Muslim demand. Mr Engineer please do this as a civil society demand, it is not a demand by Indian Muslims.
Sagarika Ghose: Mr Engineer are you willing to accept that yours is just a sectional point of view, you do not represent all Muslims.
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: Every citizen has the right to demand from the government whatever he feels is correct for the country for the society.
Abusaleh Shariff: No you do that politically, win elections and bring change.
Sagarika Ghose: Meera Isaacs would you like to come in.
Meera Isaacs: Yes, I really want to say that this is a very strange kind of argument. Everything is loaded against the girl child, what about teaching our boys about respect. The whole mindset has to change. What Mr Engineer seems to be saying is women have to be locked up in various ways. Here we are in 21st century talking about empowering the girl child. The mindset of all this has to change, and it will only change when girls and boys learn to work together, to respect each other and understand each other.
Sagarika Ghose: Mr Engineer, I'm going to ask you the last question. Why are you propagating old fashion attitudes, is it not your responsibility towards younger generations to be in sync with the modern era.
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: Every old thing is not bad and every new thing is not good. Everything which comes from West is not good. Technology is good, we will take it...
Sagarika Ghose: What is this paranoia you have against Western culture.
Abusaleh Shariff: But Sagarika where is Western culture in co-education?
Sagarika Ghose: He believes Western culture promotes co-education. And co-education is leading to nudity.
Abusaleh Shariff: But that is what he believes. There are many Islamic countries where co-education is going on.
Sagarika Ghose: There are many Islamic countries where there are co-education. Can you respond to that?
Mohammad Saleem Engineer: Islamic countries are not model for us. What we feel, in Indian society, not just for Muslims but non-Muslims... if we want to save our country from moral degradation, if we want to lead our country to progress the moral bases of the country should be strong.
Sagarika Ghose: Ok, and that can be only done through stopping co-education in schools. Ok, Mr Engineer insisting that co-educational schools are at the root of modern degradation and they are causing nudity and degradations of women. So in order to safeguard the morality of our society we have to abolish co-educational schools. The other panellists saying that co-education is essential for creating a gender equal society. Let us bring you some tweets at the end of the show. Marcella is writing, "Families and all education centers play a vital role in teaching & practicing gender equality! It is a must!"
Ravi Singh is writing, "If kids are separated on the basis of gender they won't be able to interact confidently when they grow older."
That is it on 'Face The Nation'. At last let's get our Think about it!
In the eyes of the law and Constitution of India, men and women are equal citizens. When men and women mingle freely in all aspects of life in a modern democracy, segregation in schools is surely against the spirit of the times. Co-ed schools build trust between genders and reduce any artificial notions of the so called forbidden fruit.
That is on Face The Nation thank you very much indeed for joining us.