Published: 02nd September 2021
Why we need sensitisation in schools to arrest apathy towards non-male genders
Writer, social policy researcher and Dalit activist Cynthia Stephen said that the school itself does not include teachings about gender equality
The recent instances of crimes against women, especially after the gang rape of a college student in Mysuru, have brought the focus back on gender-based violence. A cross-section of experts pointed out that social institutions like family, media, and even schools, showcase a twisted idea of gender relations, which needs to be addressed.
Writer, social policy researcher and Dalit activist Cynthia Stephen said that the school itself does not include teachings about gender equality. "When we grew up, we were taught values of nationalism, unity and inclusion. But now, we see values of inequality and discrimination at the school level. Twenty years down the line, you see a degeneration of the social fabric, the violence of extreme nature — both based on gender and caste," she added.
Manasee Palshikar, a Bengaluru-based doctor, still finds some disdain for working women among male colleagues. She believes that if empathy is inculcated in schools, the apathy towards non-male genders can be arrested.
"Apart from teaching respect for other genders in the curriculum, boys should be shown through practical approaches how to interact with them at work as they grow up, and also to recognise that colleagues from other genders have also worked as hard as them and are as intelligent, to be in that position at work," she said.
While schools definitely have a role to play, journalist and author Ammu Joseph, pointed out that families, society as a whole, and the media, impact children's sense of themselves and others, making it hard to point fingers at merely one institution.
"While there is growing support for girls at least in some families and certain sections of society, most boys even in such families do not get much guidance on gender equality and gender relations. As a result they grow up with no sense that the world is changing and they need to adjust and adapt. That is one of the biggest problems - not enough attention has been paid to sensitising boys. So there is this big gap in understanding and expectations," she said.
Educationist Niranjan Aradhya said that there is also a gap between what school textbooks contain - when they are gender-sensitive — and the actions of teachers. "A textbook may say that men and women are equal, but during school programmes, girls are usually asked to give bouquets to chief guests," he said. He suggested flipping traditional gender roles in school. "At picnics, boys can be asked to serve food instead of girls. We need empathy that treats students as equals in all respects," he said.
In all this debate on gender, people who identify as non-binary are simply not part of the debate, Dr Palshikar pointed out. "Children are not exposed to people of the third gender as human beings, but as objects or ridicule or horror. Children need to be taught to treat all genders with equal respect," he stated.