Instances of how gender equality contributed to a healthy society in the ancient times and the factors later on that caused subjugation of women to the detriment of the family system were analysed in depth at the inaugural of a national-level seminar on ‘Sensitisation of Human Rights and Promotion of Gender Equality in India through Indian literatures’ at Urumu Dhanalakshmi College on Saturday.

The near consensus at the fifth national seminar sponsored by the University Grants Commission (UGC) addressed by academicians, educational policy makers, and human rights activists was that though there has been progress in the socio-economic conditions of women of late, the status of women still left much to be desired. Acknowledging that gender inequality constituted human rights violation, speakers insisted that the educated section in the society must take the lead to raise women’s status on par with men.

Quoting extensively from Tirukkural and Sangam literature to assert the prevalence of equality of men and women as a birth right in ancient times, the Vice-Chancellor of Bharathidasan University M. Ponnavaikko who presided over the inaugural session said, the equal enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights was a reflection of the prominence accorded by mankind to a humanistic outlook. Over the ages, inequality had taken roots in fissiparous tendencies perpetuated by sectarian elements in the society, he felt, placing the onus on rectifying the situation on the younger generation.

Delivering the special address, the Deputy Advisor of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) B.S. Ponumdiraj said the impact of human rights sensitisation will be realistic when learnt from literature. Dr. Ponumdiraj underscored the need for making awareness exercises percolate to wider sections of the people and opined that human rights must manifest in all subjects in order to be understood well rather than being taught as a separate subject.

The Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies, Bharathidasan University N. Manimekalai observed that notwithstanding the progress in the society, denial of rights to women even in educated families was a cause for deep concern. Unfortunately, foeticides even in some urban pockets in the State were carried out through misuse of technology. Persistence of dowry system, she pointed out, was the cause for aversion towards girl children in families.

College Principal K. Sekar; Head of the Department of Economics, Bharathidasan University, S. Iyyampillai, the State president of Indian Human Rights Movement P. Manivel, and Auditor R. Mohan addressed the inaugural. The president of College Governing Council Kalki G. Varadarajulu and Vice-President Mothi. S. Pattabhiraman took part.