How Gender Studies is Gaining Traction and Relevance in India

What was formerly known as only good enough for “NGO jobs”, gender studies is now being seen as a great career option for those who are interested in it. Once thought a subject only for women, today this academic genre is spanning the much-debated diversity and inclusion issue along with LGBTQI matters. However, in March 2019, the UGC announced that it would be cutting the budgets of gender study centers which led to mass protests across the country by the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS).

The subject has rigorous coursework and theory

In 1986, Women’s studies was introduced at Savitribai Phule University in Pune which was defined as “a body of literature that embodies the concern for women’s equality and development, and seeks to find ­explanations and remedies for the unequal position of women in society.” Since the announcement of the budget cuts, gender studies is going back to its regressive stereotypes, bleak employment opportunities and vague academic, tragically. Priyam Sinha, graduate in sociology from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, and postgraduate in women’s studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Hyderabad, said, “Rigorous coursework that emphasized both theory and fieldwork is what ­app­ealed to me the most. The UGC guidelines have only led to perpetuating anxiety and disillusionment regarding this course.” 

The sad truth is that India does not value social sciences

In addition to this, there aren’t many resources that are relevant to the Indian context and the irony is that India is one of the many countries that need gender studies the most, not to mention that there’s a severe scarcity of instructors in colleges. Gender studies is one subject where students encounter issues all around them and sometimes in their own homes and in today’s era it is more relevant than ever before. The sad truth is that India does not value social sciences and the market for gender studies is at an all-time low. Although the subject tackles a variety of issues like media literacy, sexuality, race, and ethnicity, history involving women, queer theory and multiculturalism, to mention a few, it also misunderstood, since people think that one will only become an activist after graduating. Ph.D. graduate Aarti K. Singh, said, “Since its ­inception and connection with the women’s movement, activism has been a foundation of gender studies, especially its feminist approach. But I feel the ­approach should be ­humanist and not skewed towards either of the ­genders…neither feminist nor masculinist.”

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