“Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte!”, thundered Mohnish Bahl in Maine Pyaar Kiya, as he went on to mouth the most ridiculous line of dialogue in the history of Indian cinema, even as an innocent Bhagyashree clutched tight to a pre-pubescent Salman Khan. You can watch the scene here:
Once you get past the insufferable late-80’s costumes, Salman’s emaciated cum constipated structure and jarring music, you realise that nothing much has changed since 1989.
16 years later, PK Abu Rabb, the Kerala Education Minister, has echoed similar sentiments. Rabb says he disapproves of boys and girls sharing a bench in schools and colleges. Rabb supports gender segregation and insists that boys and girls sitting together, is against Kerala’s culture. He also adds that parents approve of his views.
This is interesting because even I have noticed that schools and colleges discourage boys and girls from sitting together. But I always thought that was because these educational institutions, being temples of higher learning, were progressive and wanted to support their homosexual students by making boys more comfortable in the company of other boys and leaving the girls alone.
Imagine if you were a gay boy and couldn’t come out to your parents, but your college supported you and your partner by insisting you sit next to each other! Or if you are a lesbian and your parents encourage you to only go on outstation trips and holidays with your female friends? Here, maybe this advertisement will help you understand how gender segregation actually helps homosexuals:
I actually know a brother and sister who are both homosexual. The sister’s girlfriend pretends to be the brother’s girlfriend and the brother’s boyfriend pretends to be the sister’s boyfriend. When they drop in for sleep overs, the parents ensure that the boys bunk together as do the girls! Recently, I spoke at a college where the management took tremendous pride in making sure boys did not stand outside the girl’s hostel gate. The gay population was overjoyed. I mean, how cute, right?
But on a more serious note, I think this practice of keeping boys and girls away from an early age, does more damage than parents and teachers realize. I have seen boys and girls being asked to sit in separate parts of the classroom, usually on two different sides. I have seen them stand in separate lines in the morning prayer assembly in schools. I have even seen their names entered separately in the attendance register! Yeh toh hadd hai yaar! I mean do you expect the letters of the names to wake up at night and make out with each other in the pages of the attendance register?!
Keeping kids apart makes them curious about each other. They stop viewing each other as people. They start viewing each other as a source of some form of forbidden pleasure. Add to this the abysmal quality of sex education. I actually know a school principal, a PhD in Biology who takes 6th and 7th standard girls to a separate room and imparts sex education by telling them that they could get pregnant and bring shame on their family’s name if they held hands with boys. Imagine, a PhD in Biology telling impressionable young girls that holding hands leads to pregnancy!
Boys across the country are of course indoctrinated with nonsense like, “Good girls will always say ‘no’ when you approach them” and “If you like a girl you must keep pursuing her till she is ‘convinced’ or gives in”. Movies only add to this nonsense. Ultimately, you have young girls and women, terrified of getting pregnant and therefore running scared of a small army of very determined stalkers!
Because of our mental block and cultural baggage, when boys and girls do end up having romantic or sexual encounters, they are invariably shrouded in shame and guilt. By the time they get married, they have already associated sexual pleasure with ‘paap’. Women do their duty by providing an heir and a spare. The men look for ‘pleasure’ outside marriage. There! You have systematically killed every possibility of having a mature and balanced society that understands love and celebrates companionship.
Ek ladka aur ek ladki bahut achchhey dost hotey hain. Raising boys and girls together and letting them sit next to each other and talk to each other freely will help them understand the difference between friendship and romantic love. This way your son will not grow up and turn into the creep who sends girls social media request saying, “I want to fraaaandship you”.
If you are that terrified of children engaging in unwanted sexual activity, why not have supervised play dates where children of all genders gather together and play together under the watchful eye of a parent or a group of parents. Where, the said parents don’t scold children from holding hands, but keep an eye on strangers who could be sexual predators. This way you can not only bring up well adjusted kids, but also keep them safe from child sexual abuse. Howzzat!!!
Encourage boys and girls to play together. These will be their very first team building lessons. It will prevent boys from growing up and looking down at their woman colleagues as ‘diversity hires’. It will make sure that your daughter will never utter the sentence “Sab mard kuttey hotey hain!” Don’t keep your daughter away from the park or the playing field because you don’t want her to get tanned or end up with scraped knees.
This way, boys will view girls as their equals. Let them build life long bonds based on mutual respect. All that discrimination is cluttering up your mind space. Get rid of it… for the sake of your children.
And Kerala Education Minister, Rabb - Tera Rabb Rakhaa!!
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals. ‘Rainbow Man’ is Harish’s regular blog for The Quint)