Discipline in School = Slut-Shaming, Hug-Banning & Moral Policing?
Moral policing in schools, the norm we should be ashamed of.
Moral policing in schools, the norm we should be ashamed of.

(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

Discipline in School = Slut-Shaming, Hug-Banning & Moral Policing?

Abira Banerjee was disallowed from participating in school fests because a teacher had spotted her talking to a boy backstage. Yes, you read that right. Talking. She was in Class 11 at the time, studying in a reputed school in Kolkata.

In Pavani Khanna’s boarding school in Dehradun too, boys and girls were not allowed to talk to each other, let alone sit together.

For Abhipsha Mahapatro, the moral policing continued long after school. At her college in Pune, girls who wore their hair loose were told they were ‘inviting’ attention, and were subsequently punished with detention.

Vidya Ram was thrashed with a stick by her tutor for talking to a girl with a “bad reputation in school”.

#StopMoralPolicing - Have you spoken up yet?
#StopMoralPolicing - Have you spoken up yet?
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)
Whether it’s a small town or a big city, a famous school or an unfamiliar college, shocking stories of moral policing are emerging from across India. This comes in the aftermath of a Class 12 boy and a Class 11 girl being suspended from school in Kerala for hugging.

Also Read: Kerala School Expels Teens for ‘Hugging’, HC Backs Decision

Clearly, the Thiruvananthapuram school which suspended the two teenagers is not the only place where teachers turn moral police.

It’s not like boys and girls have to co-exist in society or anything.
It’s not like boys and girls have to co-exist in society or anything.
(Photo: Rahul Gupta/The Quint)

The Quint asked readers to share their worst examples of moral policing in schools, and even colleges, across India. We also asked them to share what they would want to tell their teachers today.

Also Read: ‘School Officials Slutshamed Me’: Kerala Teen Expelled For Hugging

The Crime Called Talking

An unbelievable crime.
An unbelievable crime.
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Abira Banerjee writes, “I was not allowed to participate in school fests because a teacher spotted me talking to a guy backstage. And the funny thing is that nobody would tell me the reason why I was being disallowed until one day a teacher decided to just let me know. These were the words used, “You were found doing something with a guy in a school fest.” I was honestly amazed at the sheer nonsense.”

Abira Banerjee, Kolkata.
Abira Banerjee, Kolkata.
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Pavani Khanna went to a boarding school in Dehradun for her Class 11 and 12.

At Asian School, girls and boys were not supposed to talk to each other or even sit next to each other in class. There were about 60 girls in boarding, we stayed in one building and weren’t allowed to roam around or go to the gym or swim unless the boys were in their hostel. 
Pavani Khanna, Dehradun

She adds, “On Sundays, we were allowed outside for maybe an hour or two to get snacks and then we had to go back inside so that the boys could come get their snacks and play cricket for hours. It was ridiculous to say the least.”

#AdarshLadki, Don't Talk to Boys

Neha Lakshman, Mumbai.
Neha Lakshman, Mumbai.
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)
When I was in Class 10, my mother was told at a parent-teacher conference that I only talk to boys the whole day. I was made to apologise to the teachers for doing that. On the other hand, male teachers sexualising students was perfectly okay and no one batted an eyelid.
Neha Lakshman, Mumbai

Utsha Mitra remembers the time she was “caught” speaking to a boy at school.

When I was in Class 7, my mother was called to school because I was seen talking to a boy from a senior class. The said boy was my sister’s batchmate.
Utsha Mitra, Navi Mumbai

#AdarshLadki, Don't Talk to Girls Either

Vidya Ram recalls a horrific incident from when she was in Class 8.

My tuition teacher thrashed me with a stick, in front of the entire evening batch, just because she saw me hanging out with a girl from Class 10, who according to her had a “bad reputation” in school. And why did the girl have a “bad reputation?” Because she had dated a couple of times. After beating me, my teacher (who also taught at my school) called my mom and asked her to keep an eye on me.
Vidya Ram, Ahmednagar
Don’t talk to members of the opposite sex. Don’t talk to members of your own sex. Don’t talk at all.
Don’t talk to members of the opposite sex. Don’t talk to members of your own sex. Don’t talk at all.
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

If Nainika Agrawal could respond to her teacher from Mumbai’s Jamnabai Narsee School today, what would she say?

I’d tell her that she should learn to separate her prejudices from her job, and not impose them upon children.
Nainika Agrawal

‘Why So Vulgar?’

Priyanka Paul tells us about her experience in a Navi Mumbai school: “I was once berated in front of the class for scientifically explaining what a menstrual cycle is to a boy (something our education system doesn’t exactly do) and was told that school isn’t the place for such vulgar talks.” She was in Class 9 at the time.

From shaking hands to talking periods, <i>sab kuch </i>taboo&nbsp;<i>hai</i>.
From shaking hands to talking periods, sab kuch taboo hai.
(GIF: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

‘Don’t Look Inviting’

The school authorities checked the colour of our bras by pressing our shirts against our backs to “protect us from evil people outside” when we were Class 9 and 10.
Tanya Pal, Mumbai
Abhipsha Mahapatro, Pune
Abhipsha Mahapatro, Pune
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

No matter how reputed or prestigious the institution, moral policing seems to be the norm everywhere. Here’s what Abhipsha Mahapatro has to say about her alma mater, Symbiosis Centre for Media & Communication, Pune.

We were told by a teacher that girls who kept their hair open were ‘inviting’ boys. Eventually, the college also started giving detention to students if their hair was open during college hours.
Abhipsha Mahapatro, Pune

Sanjana Ray studied at La Martiniere For Girls, one of the top schools in Kolkata if magazine rankings are anything to go by. Here’s what she faced in Class 10.

My class teacher called me out in front of the whole class and yelled at me about “wearing kajal to impress God knows who” and made me go wash it off, even though I didn’t have any on!
Sanjana Ray

And that’s not all. Sanjana adds, “In Class 11, a classmate of mine was seen hugging a boy at an inter-school fest and was suspended from the club that was hosting the fest soon after. She also got a warning from the school that she could be suspended from school too. For hugging a guy at a fest!”

‘Don't Shake Hands’

Idrish Mohammed, a student at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, is exasperated at the extent moral policing can go to. “We were asked not to shake hands with those from the opposite gender in university!”

At least Modi and Merkel did shake hands shortly after.
At least Modi and Merkel did shake hands shortly after.
(GIF Courtesy: Narendra Modi/Youtube)

Moral Policing Mein Bhi Gender Discrimination

If you thought that boys and girls have it equally as bad, think again. Here’s what Pallavi Prasad had to go through when she was a Class 9 student at Delhi’s famed DPS RK Puram.

I was “caught” talking to my boyfriend outside class, and was pulled up by the vice headmistress for “dating and distracting him from his studies”. The school even called home and handed me out some arbitrary penalty paper called a Red Card. Not a single word was said to him.
Pallavi Prasad, Delhi

‘Don't Go Watch Movies’

No right to cinema.
No right to cinema.
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Nishtha Gautam says: “In Aligarh Muslim University, girl students weren’t allowed to go to cinema halls. I went out with my roommates and the warden not only slut-shamed me but also my mother, a Miranda House alumna”.

“Apni ammi jaisi hi ban jao aur aisa hostel dhoond lo jahaan ladke ladki saath mein sote hain. (Become like your mother and find a hostel where boys and girls sleep together)”.

Goodbye, Logic

At the convent where I used to study, girls in Class 6 and 7 were told by a nun not to shake their legs because that meant we wanted to have a baby.
Satvika Kundu
“What sense does that make?”
“What sense does that make?”
(GIF Courtesy: GIPHY)

Mriganka Gupta recalls the bizarre ballroom dance in her school, “For our Annual Day musical, there was a ballroom dance number involved and our principal decided to tweak it by making the boys hold the girls by their elbows alone because anything else would be sexual. This was a prestigious school in Bangalore and we were in Class 10.”

The #AdarshLadki Handbook

  1. Don’t talk to boys.
  2. Don’t talk to girls.
  3. Don’t wear your hair loose.
  4. Don’t invite attention.
  5. Don’t hug anyone.
  6. Don’t hold hands.
  7. Don’t make friends.
  8. Don’t go to watch movies.
  9. Don’t shake your legs?!
Don’t think it’s fair? Neither do we.
The #AdarshLadki guidebook.
The #AdarshLadki guidebook.
(GIF: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

The Save-Girls-From-Boys Brigade

Sameeksha Khare, who studied at a reputed school in Noida, writes, “In Class 8, two or three of us were taken outside our class and our teacher was aggressively trying to tell us how having boyfriends or being too friendly with boys will ruin our lives and affect our marks, and how decent students don't do all this.”

Juni Bahuguna had a similar experience in Class 9, in one of Lucknow’s best schools. “This Chemistry teacher of mine did not miss any opportunity to talk about how being friends with those of the opposite gender leads to distraction and failure. On a random day, she cornered me outside my class and asked me “How many boyfriends do you have?”

I was completely confused and had no idea how to react. I just said I don't have any but she went on and on about how she had heard from many of my teachers that I only talked to boys and therefore must have many boyfriends.”

I don’t know why I felt so guilty at that time when I wasn’t even at fault. If I see her now, I would only like to tell her – we can’t choose our teachers, kindly let us choose our friends.   
Juni Bahuguna, Lucknow
“We can’t choose our teachers, kindly let us choose our friends.”
“We can’t choose our teachers, kindly let us choose our friends.”
(GIF Courtesy: GIPHY)

Reverse Moral Policing

If you’ve read enough about the moral police shaming boys and girls for being friendly towards each other, here’s a story that is as uncomfortable. But in exactly the opposite way.

Antara Telang writes, “When I was in Class 9 and 10, there was a particular boy who had a crush on me and my Hindi teacher found out about it.”

He used to force that boy to sit with me in Hindi class and make both of us extremely uncomfortable by passing comments about how we would get married and how we were only getting answers wrong because we couldn’t stop thinking about each other. This is sort of the opposite of a lot of what others have been through, but I felt really awkward and sexualised when I didn’t have feelings for this boy at all.
Antara Telang

On a Lighter Note – Doubtful Cousins?

The teachers don’t always get the privilege of the last laugh. In Smriti Sanjay Sant’s case, her class teacher definitely didn’t.

She recalls, “My school in Chennai was co-ed till Class 5. The boys wing was diagonally opposite my building and my cousin brother studied in the same school. My grandmother asked me to give him a dabba. I met him after school and gave him the dabba and hugged him. My class teacher caught this and the next day, she dragged me aside and berated me.”

When I told her that he was my cousin, she said “Yeah, when you get caught, everyone is your cousin.” She then proceeded to call my mother to complain to her. But then my mom knew what was happening, so it turned out to be quite funny in the end.
Smriti Sanjay Sant
Hahahaha!
Hahahaha!
(GIF Courtesy: GIPHY)

Dear Teachers...

What would the victims of moral policing want to tell their teachers today?

A reply, years later.
A reply, years later.
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Abira Banerjee, disallowed from competing in fests because she spoke to a boy, answers, “I would tell my teachers that the least they could do was ask what it was and not judge by their predetermined thoughts. I was a talented dancer and this not just became a hindrance to my talent but it was an encouragement for others to bully me.”

Pavani Khanna writes, “I would tell the principal that they should have taught children how to function in the real world instead of shutting us off from the world in the way they did.”

Women are changing the world and when an educational institute doesn’t support and encourage girls to learn, explore and make something of their lives, then the school is responsible for the regressive and patriarchal society we live in. If you want your daughter to have equal opportunities to excel, then the same should be afforded to us.
Pavani Khanna, Dehradun

Share Your Story

Share your story. Make some noise. Let’s fight to put an end to moral policing.
Share your story. Make some noise. Let’s fight to put an end to moral policing.
(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

If you’ve had enough of slut-shaming and moral policing in schools and colleges across the country and want to speak up against it, write in to us at Editor@thequint.com or meghnad.bose@thequint.com.

Share your stories. Break the silence. Let’s fight to #StopMoralPolicing.

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