Golden Mother Award: A paean to patriarchy?

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Students, academia and women’s groups protest Calicut University’s attempt to glorify women achievers primarily as mothers

By Team FI

The Golden Mother Award instituted by the University of Calicut, kerala has come under fire from students, members of academia and women activists in Kerala and across the country.

A petition to be submitted to Prof. M. Abdul Salam, Vice-Chancellor, and the Members of the Syndicate of the University calling for the withdrawal of the Award, labeled it a “blatantly patriarchal, anti-woman, anti-democratic and a move that pulls society back to the mores of a traditional morality.”

Within the state of Kerala, women students are said to be in the forefront with activists including K Ajitha and women rights and human rights organisations such as Kerala Streevedi, AIDWA and Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishat joining the protests. The academic community have also submitted petitions to the Vice Chancellor.

What has raised the ire of the protestors is the glorification of a woman achiever primarily as a ‘Mother’, which the petition feels, implies that a woman’s place is at home and that her principal responsibility (and her alone) is giving birth to children and rearing them.

The Award is supposedly set to highlight the “the contribution of mothers to societal development and nation building and to provide exemplary models to youngsters.”

Only those women who are mothers and in the age group of 50+ and who are actively contributing to their domains of service will be considered for awards in eighteen categories such as Art, Literature, Teaching, Social work, Politics, Administration, Media, Sports, Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Engineering, Medicine, Research, Law and judiciary, Police and Banking. Ironically, its the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University that will be accepting nominations.

Author Taslima Nasrin called the University ‘an institution of nonsense patriachy’ in her blog: No country for women.

“It’s not a university’s responsibility to encourage women to become mothers. University should encourage women to become dignified personalities, independent and respected human beings. It is totally women’s personal matter whether they want to reproduce. Like a conservative patriarchal guardian Calicut University crossed the university boundary and entered women’s private bedrooms,” writes Nasreen. It has also been questioned whether the University’s can create such an Award for allegedly its Statutes itself has not empowered it.

As per the petition this Award goes against the UGC Guidelines for Development of Women’s Studies in Indian Universities and Colleges. The UGC Guidelines include the objectives of “the development of an interdisciplinary theoretical framework and a perspective to transform other disciplines to feminist perspectives, the formation of planning strategies that account for women’s particular role in the formulation of policy in establishing a just and secular society in India, the creation of scholars and activists to make more visible the issues of women from dalit, tribal, labouring and minority religious communities, and the empowerment of women in Panchayati Raj Institutions and public institutions including universities and colleges.”

Instead, the Award ignores “the contemporary feminist conceptions of motherhood as a primarily biological affair that is made problematic by conditions of poverty, deprivation and societal violence. In ignoring new forms of motherhood and parentage such as adoption, single mothers, etc., it also affirms elitist, upper-caste, patriarchal conceptions of family and womanhood,” says the petition.

Featured photo courtesy: Gelnn Brown, Flickr

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