Court: Kids must be taught gender equality in school

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By AMRITA MADHUKALYA

New Delhi : While awarding the death sentence to the four convicts in the December 2012 gangrape case, Justice Dipak Misra, in his remarks, said that punishments alone are not enough and that an attitudinal shift is needed in society. He further said that children ought to be sensitised to respect women, and that needs to start from their childhood years in school.

“Gender equality should be made a part of the school curriculum. The school teachers and parents should be trained, not only to conduct regular personality building and skill enhancing exercise, but also to keep a watch on the actual behavioural pattern of the children so as to make them gender sensitised. The educational institutions, Government institutions, the employers and all concerned must take steps to create awareness with regard to gender sensitisation and to respect women (sic),” read the judgement.

The Justice Verma Committee Report, too, echoed the same thought. “The school as a social arena is also marked by asymmetrical power relations. In a certain sense, the entire purpose of law is to correct the asymmetry of power. If that asymmetry of power begins in the arena of a school, we need to consider this closely. This asymmetry is enacted not only through gender but through age and authority,” stated the 2013 report.

Schools across the Capital said that they follow the guidelines laid down by the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012. “We are already following the POSCO guidelines at the school level. There are internal committees in almost all schools to take care of gender-related issues. It’s very important to have regular awareness sessions with students on gender equality,” said Anuradha Joshi, principal of Sardar Patel School.

BK Sharma, Principal, Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Lajpat Nagar, said that schools must incorporate gender sensitivity in their curriculum. “It is very important to discuss gender equality at the school level. Students should feel free to discuss their issues,” said Sharma.

Schools in India are now not mandated to impart sex education. Activists say that this is essential as this teaches students about “good touch” and “bad touch.” In 2007, when sex education was introduced in schools in India, the state governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Goa protested and eventually banned sex education in school fearing that it would lead to promiscuity.

In 2009, a parliamentary standing committee, chaired by union minister Venkaiah Naidu, stated in their report that sex education in schools needed to be limited to biology class, and that they should not be taught to students before the tenth standard. It also stated that students should be told that indulging in sex outside the institution of marriage is against societal norms.

Enakshi Ganguly of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights said that sex education should be an obvious mandate of schools, and added that the apex court’s comments have come somewhat late in the day. “Successive governments have failed to take a stand on the matter, and it is time they should,” she said.

(With inputs by Fareeha Iftikhar)

Source: Daily News & Analysis

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