In 1951, when the constitution for the students’ union of St Stephen’s College was drafted, it was an all-boys college. In the constitution, therefore, the pronoun ‘he’ was written to refer to the president of the union. The same continued till date, despite the college turning co-ed in 1975.
Now, 68 years later, in a small yet significant bid to ensure gender parity, the current union of the college has decided to replace ‘he’ with ‘the president’. Ramon Mohora, the Students’ Union Society (SUS) president said the move was taken “to make future unions more accessible and non-discriminatory”.
The bill to make the change was first unanimously approved in a meeting of the college union cabinet and the students’ council in the first week of September. A general body meeting of students was called last Friday, which also passed the same. The principal now has to give final approval.
Mohora said the decision was taken to “celebrate and recognise gender diversity among people, and to also move in the direction of reform and equality in college life for people belonging to different genders”.
“This was long overdue. Our college began as an all-male college and women were admitted only later. But even after that, no one really took into account the changes that needed to be made in the constitution. As a result, there was a lack of participation from women in the students’ union. In our long history, we’ve only had two women presidents,” he said.
Mohora said the “brainchild” behind the move was last year’s students’ union president but it could not be done in his tenure for various reasons. “Our union strives for inclusivity and, therefore, we thought we should amend the constitution and remove the ‘he’ pronoun. We thought it would be symbolic,” he said.
Mohora said other steps were also being taken to ensure gender equality. Of the 15 member-cabinet that he has picked, he has ensured that seven are women: “This was a conscious decision. Earlier, the ratio used to be much more skewed. We also want to learn more about how systems work in other colleges, and take good points from them.”
Mohora said the union was also trying to make it “as inclusive and representative as possible” by starting action committees at the ground level, “wherein students who are not elected can also help the union in preparing reports and understanding students’ problems”.