Published: 09th November 2021
Kerala lecturer declines job after college asks her to not wear a salwar kameez. But the Education Minister stood by her
The lecturer was contacted by the Higher Education Minister Dr R Bindu, who apparently assured her all the support needed to make it work
On September 30, Riya* (Name changed to protect privacy) received an appointment letter from the IHRD College of Applied Science in Kodungallur, asking her to join the institute the next day as an English Guest lecturer. Even though this was on such short notice, she geared up to join. After all, this was much closer to home than her previous workplace. So, the next day, she tells us that she reached the institute with the necessary paperwork.
That's when she received a rude shock. "As soon as I got there, a clerk told me that 'this' is not allowed," she says. What is 'this'? A salwar kameez. Riya says that she was told that female faculty members are not permitted to wear salwar kameez, but were expected to wear saris all the time. "Apparently, the Principal is quite adamant about it. But I do not own a sari or know how to drape one," she says. Unable to accept this unwritten rule, Riya decided to not join the institute and sent a scathing mail to Kerala's Higher Education Minister Dr R Bindu about what happened.
However, a little over a month later, she found some respite when Dr R Bindu assured her of her support. "On the day of the incident, I wrote an email to the minister, explaining the situation," says Riya, sharing a copy of the email with EdexLive. In it, she says that the men who teach in the college do not have any dress code. "The minister called me on Monday (November 8) and asked me not to worry. She also told me that during her career as an academic, she had worn a salwar kameez to her college multiple times," she says.
Now, what does the law say here? A notification by the Government of Kerala issued on May 9, 2014 says that female faculty members are permitted to wear a salwar kameez, while teaching. The notification also bans individuals and institutions from discriminating against female teachers, based on their clothes. "The Minister told me that the government will re-issue the circular, if necessary," says Riya, who says that she did not have to follow any such rules in her previous workplace, which was also an institute under the Government of Kerala.
While she had quit that job to join her new workplace, Riya is currently unemployed.