A CASE FOR GROWING SEXISM AND MISOGYNY AMONGST TEENS IN INDIA
In the aftermath of the ‘bois locker room’ incident, a lot of discussion and discourse regarding gender sensitisation and sex education is doing the rounds on several social media platforms. The fact that such groups exist on popular social media outlets is itself an indication of the lack of awareness and understanding amongst the teenage group with respect to gender studies.
The incident is just the tip of the iceberg. According to some news reports and studies, there are thousands of chat groups involved in degrading women, sharing objectionable pictures of them, and passing obnoxious sexual remarks. A critical concern for parents and society in general is that the trend is particularly rising amongst middle and high school students and unfortunately schools are hardly taking any action on this front. Instead, the overall environment in schools help propagate the already existing prejudices and biases against women.
Repeated studies of children and their parents reveal a parental naïveté gap, parents underestimating their kids by as much as 10 times. Another data released by the National Family Health Survey in 2018 says that most sexual encounters in India tend to be of the conjugal kind. Thus, women tend to have sex at an earlier age because they get married at a younger age or fall prey to sexual harassment. Also, there are important differences across people with different educational attainments. People with higher levels of education tend to stay in college longer, and hence get married later. The age at first intercourse for such people therefore tends to be later. As a result, many students tend to watch porn or indulge in Locker Room chat regularly.
Ashok Pradhan, an author who also studies social trends, says the onus to check such virtual chats lie with the parents who need to groom their children about cybercrimes and its serious implications. “Boys are doing almost anything and everything, including using software to strip girls on the internet. Parents need to be super alert so that their children remain within control. Liquor parties for school children must stop because it eventually leads to rave parties.”
If anything, these data, reports and growing instances of violence and cyberbullying against women and girls only prove that there is a growing necessity for introducing sex education and gender studies classes at school level and it should be made mandatory along with other traditional subjects. This will enable even teachers and other faculty staff at schools to direct their actions in ways that will promote healthy and more equal environment for girls at school. The course should be designed in such a manner, where students can be provided with a safe environment to discuss freely about their conceptual understanding of gender and sex and offer them an opportunity to clarify the discriminatory perception that they hold against women. By doing this, we will collectively be able to reduce gender violence and biases against women in society.
Schools also need to urgently conduct cyber-bullying, gender sensitisation and gendered-abuse workshops with parents, teachers, and students regularly. I entreat especially the parents of boys to abolish the sense of entitlement which is common to every Indian male child. We should teach children the meaning of consent. All of the above will still fail if parents do not lead by example. Indian men have largely not grown up witnessing any form of gender equity, rather the opposite. Children learn by imprinting and modelling behaviours they see in adults around them. It is crucial to break gender stereotypes if respect across genders is to be fostered in children. Stereotyping precisely creates the hierarchy in the family, where the position of one gender subsumes the other.
On a personal note, I too, have come to realize a great deal about society, sex, and gender roles through my University lectures. Like other Indian male children, I too was oblivious and many a times implicit in encouraging a subservient environment for women and my female peers in my early adolescent life. However, after actively participating in workshops, attending gender studies classes, my worldview regarding gender roles and sex literacy have evolved in a positive direction and I am constantly working on advancing a safe and equal surrounding for female peers. These patriarchal notions about gender roles and how females should behave and conduct their life in public sphere have resulted in fatal damage to social and personal lives of men, women, and the other genders alike. There is a pressing need to educate students, parents and teachers and create a free, transparent space for dialogue so as to do away with these pre-existing wrongful notions that will subsequently improve the quality of life for all the community members.
* Dishant Choudhary is a 3rd year law student from Jindal Global Law School. He is a member of Team Project Saathi ( Research Division ).