Educational institutions can help dismantle the structural inequalities inherent in our socio-cultural fabric that perpetuate the cycle of gender-based violence.

India is home to the largest teenage population in the world – around 243 million, or about 20% of the country’s total population, are between the ages of 10 and 19. Discrimination and social stigma associated with sex education in India, millions of people between the ages of 15 and 24 have limited knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, although a considerable proportion of this group is sexually active. This has led to issues like teenage pregnancy, lack of safe menstrual practices, and child sexual abuse. A study carried out by the Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Development found that the majority of cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by trusted people within families.

Due to strict laws such as the POCSO and circulars and guidelines issued by the CBSE in 2015 and 2017, educational institutions must ensure that no sexual harm is inflicted on the students in their care, adolescents in India continue to face a number of challenges which are further compounded. by failing criminal justice systems, inaccessible mental health mechanisms, a lack of resources and infrastructure to support a survivor’s journey to recovery, and social structures that trap victims in shame and stigma. It therefore becomes essential for educational institutions to dismantle the structural inequalities inherent in our socio-cultural fabric that perpetuate the cycle of gender-based violence and the culture of rape and rights.

Prevention matters

Whether it is for basic human rights, domestic violence or child sexual abuse, the goal of educational institutions should be to put in place measures to ensure that any abusive behavior is avoided before it occurs. . They need to invest time and resources in awareness campaigns and interventions that educate adolescents about consent and personal boundaries. Equal attention is required to roll out such programs for teachers and parents. Both need to be made aware of the importance of unlearning their own sense of denial, silence, shame and stigma that surrounds any conversation about sex, sexuality and sexual violence. What is also important is understanding the appropriate response to sexual abuse disclosures, which requires adults to listen and then validate the experiences of survivors by believing them, reassuring them that it was not theirs. fault and making sure they have access to resources. and a safe space.

Recently, many schools have incorporated legal studies into the high school curriculum. This is a good first step. In order to prevent gender-based and sexual violence, it is important to know and understand the legal frameworks and definitions of violent behavior. But for positive modeling, this agenda needs to be further expanded to include gender, queer and peace studies. This will allow students to unlearn internalized narratives of oppression, exclusion, suppression and domination in their formative years, and cultivate compassionate and inclusive mindsets.

Educational institutions can play a vital role in realizing India’s commitment to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goal-oriented collaborative projects emerging from the Integrated Inclusive Studies Program could bring students from different schools on the same platform around common social issues, thus instilling the sustained rigor needed for responsible, results-oriented actions. , socially responsible and inclusive. Diversity, inclusion, responsible sexuality and laws would then cease to be notions and concepts, and acquire practical application in the practice of everyday equality.

If educational institutions were to invest in such inclusive programs, awareness campaigns and collaborative interventions, they could build a squad of skilled, empathetic and responsible young adults able to recognize, question and challenge systemic oppressions. and structural violence; understand the nuances of conflict, prejudice and abuse; practice de-escalation and resolution in real-life scenarios; and have knowledge of reporting procedures and the language to report abusive behavior.

The author is director of communication for the NGO Sakshi.

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