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NEET centre asks girl to remove bra: Did dress code dictate it?...

NEET centre asks girl to remove bra: Did dress code dictate it? Explained

A girl student appearing for the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) for medical science was yesterday allegedly forced to take off her brassiere before entering the test centre as the metal hooks in the innerwear beeped during a security check. While the incident — similar reports had arrived from Kerala in 2017 and 2018 — has shocked the nation, the outrageous act, which led to a police complaint by the father of the candidate, is making people wonder if there is a dress code that necessitated such action.

In the incident at the NEET centre in District Kollam, Kerala, the women security personnel asked the girl allegedly to remove her bra because of the "metallic hook". When she resisted, they told her she would not be allowed to take the medical admission exam.

The father of the girl, Gopakumar Sooranad, said that after his daughter entered the exam centre, his wife and he were about to grab a meal when they got a call from the exam centre, asking them to reach the gate.

The father said, "When we reached the gate, we saw our daughter in tears. She said that she and other girls were being asked to remove part of their inner wear and asked for a shawl to wear during the test."

"My wife gave her a shawl and she went back inside and we thought that was that. However, after the exam, my daughter returned still looking distressed and broke into tears in my wife’s arms. On the way home, she told us what had transpired during the test. It was startling," he said.

The minor girl said one of the invigilators at the centre said that she could either remove her bra or not write the exam. "There were two rooms where undergarments of young women and girls were stacked on top of each other in violation of Covid-19 protocols. Those writing the exams are between the age groups of 17 to 23. Imagine how uncomfortable it would be for them to concentrate during the exam when surrounded by male students as well," the anguished father said.

The father then went to the Kottarakkara Deputy Superintendent of Police’s office and lodged a complaint.

This morning, the police, acting on the complaint, has registered a case under Sections 354 (an assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (a word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code.

Sooranad told reporters later that his complaint was not only for his daughter but for all other girls and women. "No other parent should have to face such a situation again," he said.

Sooranad said that he was ready to move the Human Rights Commission as he held that the incident was a violation of human rights and that something like this should not ever happen in the country. "My daughter, who is a brilliant student, is yet to recover from the experience. She sits in a room without speaking to anyone."

"We expected her to get into one of the national level colleges, but she could not concentrate during the test because of what happened," he said.

When and where exactly did this incident happen? What was the NEET centre that did it?

At the Mar Thoma Institute of Information Technology, Ayur, District Kollam, Kerala, on 17 July.

Did any authority accept responsibility for the repugnant act?

No. While the Mar Thoma Institute of Information Technology said the National Testing Agency authorises two agencies for checking the students and their own staff did not do it, the agencies must are supposed to be of the state government that has denied the women personnel who frisked the girl were employees of any registered agency of Kerala either. As of now, the examination centre and the state government are passing the buck to each other.

Is there a precedent to this incident?

There are two precedents. In May 2017, a candidate had complained about having had to go through a similar ordeal in Kannur, Kerala. Four security personnel were suspended after that complaint.

The candidate said she had reached the exam centre by 8 AM, wearing a half-sleeve top and black pants. “At the gate, they told me that dark coloured pants weren't allowed and that I needed to change to be allowed inside the exam hall. As it was a Sunday, most of the shops remained shut. My mother and I had to walk for at least two kilometres to find a shop, get a change of clothes and then return to the exam hall,” she was quoted as telling News Minute.

Her ordeal did not end there. When passing through the metal detector, it beeped. She told the officials that it was the metal hook in her bra strap that made the machine beep. But they didn’t allow her in and insisted that she take it off. “I went to one side of the room, removed my bra and handed it over to my mother who was standing outside the gate. As I entered the exam hall to write the test, I had little confidence left in me,” she further stated.

The Central Board of Secondary Education, which used to conduct the NEET then, had said the incident was a result of the security staff's overzeal.

In 2018, an 18-year-old girl in Palakkad — Kerala again — alleged that she too was asked to remove her bra when she was being frisked.

Were the actions of the security personnel dictated by a certain dress code?

Yes and no. Yes, because exam centres must make sure that no student cheats. Therefore, while there is no rule of appearing in any uniform, certain objects cannot be carried into the exam hall. Wallets, goggles, handbags, belts, caps, watches, wristwatches, bracelets, cameras, ornaments and metallic items are prohibited at the exam centre.

No, because frisking is done only in rare cases when not only a candidate fails the metal detector test but also behaves in a suspicious manner.

Are there similar guidelines for JEE (Mains), JEE (Advanced), and CUET-UG?

In any state-held competitive exam, the list of items that are prohibited remains more or less the same as above. These centres do not allow a candidate to carry wallets, goggles, handbags, belts, caps, watches, wristwatches, bracelets, cameras, ornaments and metallic items inside the exam hall.

Can there be an institutionalised solution to this repeat offence?

Yes, before security personnel are allowed to check any candidate, they must be put through a test that would assess their faculty of discretion. As said above, frisking is optional. So, the security personnel must take recourse to it only when they have no choice.

Besides, if the citizens of this country agree, the government may introduce a second stage of checking an individual candidate when the metal detector beeps by putting him or her through an X-ray scanner. Since many people find such a scanner intruding into their privacy, introducing this second stage of scanning may be controversial.

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Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasguptahttp://''
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sirf News Surajit Dasgupta has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life, the first national affairs editor of Swarajya, executive editor of Hindusthan Samachar and desk head of MyNation

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