Cameraperson: Shivkumar Maurya
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam and Vivek Gupta
Recently, a school in Kolkata – Kamala Girls’ School – allegedly “accused” a group of twelve thirteen-year-old school girls of engaging in ‘lesbianism’.
According to complaints by parents and students, on 9 March 2018, the teacher-in-charge or acting headmistress of the school, Shikha Sarkar, asked 12 students to write that they were indulging in a certain type of behaviour that was not “civilised” and was “sexual” in nature.
This, some of the girls alleged, was an attempt to muffle an incident of sexual harassment that the students were trying to raise their voices against.
If the girls’ allegations are true, it is highly problematic for the school to be trying to muzzle its students for trying to report against sexual harassment. If the allegations are untrue, it is still very problematic to “accuse” students of homosexual behaviour.
Such an accusation equates homosexuality to deviant behaviour, which it is not, for the thousandth time. Even the SC is reconsidering its original judgement on criminalising homosexuality now.
Ideally, the school should have been condemned for its misstep, but surprisingly, it was backed by the Minister of Education of West Bengal, Partha Chatterjee, who said, “We will not inculcate homosexual behaviour in schools.”
Homophobia Not the Only Problem
But the problem is hardly confined to homophobia. In fact, schools in India go through heaven and hell to prevent the sexual awakening of their adolescent students. It goes without saying that sex education is as good as fiction in schools, but usually the administration also goes the extra mile to keep the sexes and the genders apart.
Last year, a male student of St Thomas Central School in Thiruvananthapuram was expelled for hugging a female classmate. What is even more ridiculous is that the school termed the incident as “indecent, scandalous, and an undisciplined public display of affection”.
Adolescence and hitting puberty is not a mortal sin, but the normal process of growing up! And being aware of one’s body, one’s sex and gender, other’s sexes and genders, are part and parcel of this process.
When schools demonise this natural development, it’s bound to implant negative ideas about sex and sexuality among young impressionable minds.
Currently, there is no dearth of reports of sexual abuse occurring within school premises. So, schools should change their agenda of targeting young adolescents, and instead, stress on gender sensitisation, along with taking a firm stand against any type of sexual abuse of school kids. The problem, as always, is abuse stemming from an unhealthy understanding, or misunderstanding, of sexuality – not from sexuality itself.