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Asiatic Society Denies 'Gender Segregation' at Library Days After TISS Student's FB Post

A student from Tata Institute Of Social Sciences in Mumbai had alleged that she was not allowed to sit in the 'general' section of The Asiatic Library because she was female.

Raka Mukherjee | News18.com@RakaMukherjeee

Updated:February 5, 2019, 4:16 PM IST
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Asiatic Society Denies 'Gender Segregation' at Library Days After TISS Student's FB Post
A student from Tata Institute Of Social Sciences in Mumbai had alleged that she was not allowed to sit in the 'general' section of The Asiatic Library because she was female.
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Update: We have updated this article to include a statement from The Asiatic Society.

Days after a student of Tata Institute Of Social Sciences in Mumbai complained about gender-segregation at The Asiastic Society Library, the institute responded to News18's query, stating that "The Asiatic Library does not have any practice of segregating men and women in the Library."

In a Facebook post, Anna Brittas, a student at TISS, narrated an incident on a visit to the library. She was pretty much told that no sign means 'No women allowed here'.

Anna told News18 that when she visited the library at about 11 AM, it was fairly empty, except for the ladies section. A small board read 'ONLY LADIES,' and this section, which Anna stated was 'one-ninth of that of the hall' was the section where Anna and her friend were immediately directed towards.

"The section was full, there were round tables with 4-5 chairs around all filled. They were not friendly for students with laptops at all. Maybe one or two chairs were empty but the tables were full. There were about 15-20 women already there," she said.

Anna then asked the staff if they could sit in the general area, as the section was already crowded. But the staff told them they could only sit in the area demarcated for ladies. "Ladies ke liye yeh specifically banaya hai," the staff said.

"The staff working there showed us tiny spaces in the already filled area where we could sit, but on us insisting that we have laptops and the space is too little and we would rather prefer the long tables on the general side we were told that those are for men," she adds.

The TISS student said that the 'general side' was mostly empty with vacant chairs. However, she, her friend and another women were finally seated, "very reluctantly by a staff member".

After ten minutes, a staff came up to them and said that a space had cleared up in the 'Only ladies' section, and asked them to go back, or else "more women would come and join you here".

"Aapke bhalai keliye bol rahe hai," the staff continued. "Ladka ladki saath mei baithenge toh aapko hi issue hoga (This is for your good. A boy and a girl sitting together will cause issue for you)"

Following some commotion, the officer-in-charge allowed to them sit there but asked them to come earlier the next time so as to ‘reserve’ their place in the women's section.

"We managed to sit in the general area, but it was then followed by stares from different staff members who shook their heads in disappointment and some kind of moral judgment," Anna said. "The fact that even in this day and age women have to ‘compromise’, negotiate and fight for something as regular as a place to read shows how far behind the movement we are."​

The Asiatic Society further clarified, that their library is open only to members, which neither of the girls are, and furthermore, the Library is closed at present to the readers because of annual stock-taking of books and periodicals.

Anna Brittas on January 31st, in another Facebook post clarified that the library she went to was the 'Central Library ' which is also inside the Asiatic Society Campus, and she was not aware that it was not the Asiatic Library which was also in the same building.

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