India misogyny: National high school exam question sparks outrage and protests

Parents and social media users also criticized the Central Board of Secondary Education of India (CBSE), which later apologized for the question and said it would be removed from the article without notice. Are there any penalties for students?

According to CBSE, the controversial passage was part of a Literature and English test given to 10th graders (usually 15 to 16 years old) over the weekend.

Immediately after the exam, pictures of the questions started going viral on social media. A passage in the reading passage describes how a woman can only be “obedient from a young age” by giving her husband “formal obedience”.

Another passage concludes that “the abandonment of the wife has destroyed the power of the parents over the children.”

The controversial text immediately sparked fury from parents and other online users, who demanded an explanation from education authorities. Politicians quickly got involved, with many calling for an investigation and a formal apology from the board.

“That’s unbelievable! Are we really teaching kids this trick?” tweeted Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary of the Indian National Congress party, the country’s main opposition party.

Sonia Gandhi, the party’s president, raised the issue during a session of Parliament on Monday, calling the passage “brutal”.

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“I strongly oppose such blatantly misogynistic material,” she said. “It reflects extremely poorly on educational and testing standards, and it goes against all norms and principles of a progressive and empowered society.”

Soon after, she and other opposition members walked out of the National Assembly session to protest.

By Monday afternoon, CBSE released a statement announcing that the passage in question did not meet “the board’s guidance.”

In a separate statement later that evening, the board added that it was “committed to equity and excellence in education,” and that it “regrets this unfortunate incident.” The panel will establish an expert committee to review and strengthen the questioning process in the future, it said.

Exam questions are written by “test-takers” appointed by the CBSE president and are required to hold a graduate degree in the academic subject they are writing about. The questions are then reviewed and approved by a moderator, also appointed by the CBSE president.

Despite the council’s swift response, some social media users argued that the damage was done, as students across the country were exposed to false ideas and concepts.

This is not the first time the national exams have been made public; Earlier this month, the board apologized and withdrew another passage about the 2002 Gujarat riots from its social studies exam to address issues that “could damage human emotions based on on political and social choices.”


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