The Kerala Higher Education Department has issued a circular today clarifying that there is no compulsion that female lecturers must wear sarees to work. The issue came to light again following a recent incident wherein a female candidate for the post of assistant professor in English at the College of Applied Science (CAS) in Kodungallur was told that, on appointment, she would have to compulsorily wear sarees to work everyday.
The circular says that it has come to the notice of the government that certain higher educational institutions are prescribing dress code for female lecturers. There is no law in force which mandates that female lecturers should wear sarees to work. Lecturers are free to wear any dress which is comfortable for them and does not violate the norms of decency, it adds.
As reported by the New Indian Express, the College of Applied Science at Kodungallur had made it clear to the female candidate that the college enforced a strict dress code which required women lecturers to wear only sarees. Churidars, kurtas and leggings were not permitted. As the report states, such incidents are being reported in various colleges despite the government having clarified time and again that women teachers were allowed to wear churidars or other attires while on duty. The first circular in this regard was issued 4 February, 2008 and since the order was not implemented by many institutions, the government issued a fresh circular on 9 May, 2014 on the basis of the complaint filed by a faculty member of a professional college.
As noted in the report, again in June 2014, the state education department had to issue a clarification in the wake of another complaint filed by a then BEd student. The order directed deputy directors of education, district education officers, and heads of district institutions for education and training to ensure that no institution or school enforces a mandatory dress code on teachers.
In spite of repeated clarifications, many institutions continue to impose dress codes on female lecturers and this circular is yet another attempt by the government that such dress codes are not mandated by law and cannot be insisted upon by colleges.