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Gender sensitisation should begin early at home and school: Experts

May 10, 2020

Recently, a class 12 student, admin of Bois Locker Room was arrested in Delhi. The chatroom on Instagram run by teenage boys was being used to share obscene messages and morphed pictures of underage girls. The screenshots of the chatroom, exposed by a girl, shows boys talk about gang raping girls and sexualising and slut-shaming them. The news drew shock and anger on social media. In light of this disturbing incident, EducationWorld spoke to a few experts to understand what leads to such behaviour among kids and what parents and schools can do to teach kids to respect one another.

Swati Popat Vats, founder-president of the Early Childhood Association (ECA) says parents need to adopt conscious parenting method to drive home the message to their kids about what is wrong and what is right. “Parents should monitor the words and actions of kids and build a strong foundation so that they can be confident that their child will take right decision when they are left alone after 10 years of age. Parents these days have lost the connection with their kids. They do not communicate with them beyond things like if they have completed the homework and what did teachers teach in school. The bond usually breaks when the kid turns 8 and parents then suddenly want to revive when they become teenagers worrying that they might get into drinking or smoking. They need to have the connection going,” she says. She adds that many parents believe they need to be their children’s friends. “The kids do not need a friend in a parent. They need a parent who does not judge or ridicule them and provide them with right solution if they are making any wrong choice.”

Dr Ratna Ghose, head of Capstone School High, Hoskote says though gender sensitisation begins at home, it should be addressed by schools as well. Schools should also focus on the mental health of children and ensure they learn to understand and respect the opposite sex so that such social evils can be eradicated. “In the schools that I have worked for, we have been organising gender sensitisation sessions from grade 4. We organise it together with boys and girls and also separately. Kids would have natural curiosity to understand the opposite sex as they hit puberty. Hence, they should be addressed to by an expert. Once their curiosity is addressed and they have healthy understanding of their bodily changes and opposite sex, they learn to respect all genders. Now as kids are exposed to devices like mobile, they should be taught how to effectively use them,” she says adding that learning begins at home and when they see a culture of male dominance at home or in society (like in most parts of our country), there is a tendency to look down on women. 

Vats adds that children imitate adults. “When they hear men in the family using bad words or ridiculing women, they are suggesting wrong things to kids. I also blame Bollywood songs. There’s a Punjabi Bollywood song which states there is a buffet of girls and you can choose whatever you like. Parents should ask their kids who are their favourite actors and songs. They can get an idea from there. The environment in which a child grows shapes their personality,” says Vats. 

Kannan Gireesh, well-known psychiatrist and psychotherapist and founder of Live Life Education Pvt. Ltd agrees. He says easy accessibility to uncensored content and sense of belongingness to a tribe are some of the reasons why children feel it is normal to have such conversations and both parents and kids have to be sensitised by schools. “YouTube gives suggestions to related videos once you open a video. Parents need to spy on their kids. They might think that the kids are studying in an online class, but they can also watch or chat on a different screen. Hence, there are apps which help them track what their kids are browsing. Some online creators have a cult following and when kids find like-minded people, they form a group and try to be cool. The kids these days learn graphic designing and robotics. They morph pictures of their girlfriends and share them in groups. They see nothing wrong in it and consider it as harmless entertainment,” he says adding that kids should be advised not to accept friend requests from unknown people and like sites which are not appropriate for them. He says schools should also promote a culture of leadership so that students can analyse how to handle failures and be careful. Case studies of other such incidents should be shared with kids so that they know what are the consequences of these actions, he says. 

Nivedita Mukerjee, an education advisor adds that schools should set up equity, diversity and inclusion department with members comprised of school counsellor, teacher and parent volunteers and a member of student body to deal with these issues and gender sensitisation should start as early as pre-primary stage. “Parents and schools should work together rather than blame each other when such incidents occur. There should be no distinction between girls and boys and they should be treated as children or students. Kids are usually told don’t cry like a girl, you got defeated by a girl and these things remain in the minds of the kids. I have worked with many students and educational institutions and have observed that kids who do not have a nice adulthood or acceptable adulthood have had situations at home or their circle of influence where they learn that dominance and assertions are shown in a particular manner such as the tone and action of adults. We need to walk away from gender denomination. The least it is portrayed, the better it is,” she says.  

And when parents learn that their kids are indulging in such activities, they should confront them but instead of reacting, they need to counsel them and understand why they did what they did, says Vats. They should seek professional help. Mukherjee adds that such behaviours arise from attention seeking syndrome. “Some might take it in a positive way by excelling in certain things while some try and gain attention in negative way by indulging in such behaviour,” she adds.

Recommended: Parents need to responsibly discuss sexuality with children

Akhila Damodaran

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