Published: 06th November 2023
TN female teachers policed over wearing churidhar despite GO; few allege sexual objectification
The teachers claim that most of the schools are unaware of a government order that allows wearing traditional attire other than a saree
Despite there being a government order, female teachers in government schools are worried that district officers of the school education department are restricting them from wearing churidhar when they come to schools.
They have alleged that educational officers are unaware of Government Order (GO) 67 released by the Personnel and Administrative Reforms department in June 2019 and they have stressed the school education department to send a separate circular to all district Chief Educational Officers (CEOs) regarding this.
What can they wear?
In a GO, it stated that government servants are required to wear neat, clean formal attire that is appropriate to the workplace setting. Further, it said, "As to maintain the decorum of the office, while in duty, like Saree or Salwar Kameez or Churidhar with dupatta in the case of female government servants and, shirts with formal pants or vesthi (Dhoti) reflecting Tamil culture or any Indian tradition dress, in the case of male government servants."
Moral policing with an attire?
Finally, it said that casual attire should be avoided. A female teacher at a government high school in Coimbatore told The New Indian Express, "Few students commented indecently seeing my hip and back while I was teaching Class X in a classroom last year and I had been forced to correct my saree. It distracted me in the classroom. Even if I warned those students, they were not ready to hear my words."
"To avoid this, I came to school wearing churidhar since that incident and I felt comfortable. But the school headmaster and other teachers saw this differently. The headmaster warned me not to come to school wearing churidhar as there was no order for the teachers in the school education department to wear churidhar. It indicated he lacked awareness of GO 67. Even if I showed him the GO, he did not accept it saying the school education department did not release a separate order for schools. Due to continuous disputes with him, now I wear a saree to school and face the same problem," she said.
Meanwhile, in September, a female teacher from Cuddalore district posted a message on social media, that an educational officer who visited the school questioned her about "who gave her the right to come to the school by wearing churidhar". That officer further said that there is no right for differently-abled teachers to come to school wearing churidhar, she posted.
She claimed on social media that she would come to the school wearing churidhar regularly, as churidhar is most comfortable. A female Block Resource Teacher Educators (BRTE) in the Salem school education department, told The New Indian Express, "Earlier, colleagues teased me about my body when I wore a saree. So, I scolded them. When I shared my bad experience with a teacher, he said that there is a provision to wear churidhar. Following this, I have been wearing a churidhar for the last two years. Churidhar is comfortable while I am doing office work and riding a two-wheeler."
She said that sometimes. higher officials questioned her about wearing churidhar, hence, she showed this GO to avoid questions. Tamil Nadu Teachers and School Protection General Secretary R Ramkumar told The New Indian Express, "Many female teachers are experiencing uncomfortable situations outside while they are teaching in classrooms. Due to lack of awareness regarding wearing churidhar among officers and teachers from the school education department, many teachers are hesitant even if they like to wear churidhar for comfort."
"Hence, the school education department should create awareness about this GO," he urged. When The New Indian Express asked about this GO, the district educational officers seemed unaware. When contacted, School Education director G Arivoli confirmed it and told The New Indian Express that there is a GO and it will also apply to the government servants and the teachers can visit the school wearing churidhar and at the same time, the district education officials should not question them.
A top officer from the district school education department told The New Indian Express that he would take steps to release a circular soon based on GO 67.