Can Gender Sensitization Programs At School Bring The Dream Of Equality Closer?

Posted: December 13, 2014

The root cause of violence against women lies in the social acceptance of women as “prey” in need of “protection”. Could gender sensitization programs at an early age be an answer?

Our newspapers are again replete with disheartening stories of sexual assaults and the perpetuation of violence against women. Distressing cases of unjustified social conditioning have also not stopped coming to the fore.

Again, a woman was brutally raped in Delhi by a cab driver. She booked a cab with a trusted cab service provider but it seems that our society and institutions have lost the privilege of being called trustworthy. Is it a call back to those days when a female had to always look out for a male to take her home and accompany her wherever she wished to be?

The Rohtak sisters who displayed sheer bravery by beating up their molesters are now becoming the victims of blame. People are coming with up with every possible absurd reason to prove the girls ‘aggressive’ and the boys, innocent. No one wishes to get into dirty fights with polluted minds without any reason; how can the society overlook this very basic fact?

What would happen if this moral deterioration becomes rampant? A state of anarchy has always existed for women; they have been conveniently blamed and victimized for whatever they do or whatever they don’t. Is this disorder going to take us anywhere? With such recurring shameful incidents we are eclipsing the healthy survival of our society.

Our presence here at Women’s Web testifies the fact that at a certain level, we are all against social stigmas and prejudices against women. We are all living the dream of an equitable and fair society. We all condemn incidents of extremism and praise stories of women getting out and making their space. Then what is going wrong? Why are we still not finished with such appalling incidents?

The deep roots of violence against women

The problem lies in the deep seated bias which is a gift of our proud patriarchal mindset. We are still celebrating the birth of a male child and killing female foetuses. Our society suffers from a sad case of social conditioning where we teach girls to keep quiet and encourage the sick attitude of “boys will be boys”. Even educated couples indulge in superstitious offerings of prayers to bear a male child. We are becoming meek spectators to the worsening sex ratio, ever increasing cases of female foeticides and the never ending cases of child marriages. When our politicians mention their daughters as liabilities and actors display an unwarranted extravaganza in the marriage of their sisters, how are the claims of reducing wastage during the fat Indian weddings and considering the girl child an asset, going to materialize?

Our society suffers from a sad case of social conditioning where we teach girls to keep quiet and encourage the sick attitude of “boys will be boys”.

The only way I see out of this mess is the total revamping of the roots of our social thinking and existence. Where education has come to our rescue against varied social evils, let it play its role again. We all remember how in school the story depicting valour of Rani Lakshmi Bai used to fill us with a deep sense of pride and instilled our faith in the existence of powerful women. Let such stories glorifying the life of women become a separate part of school curriculum.

Not just chapters but books dedicated to elevating the status of women in society must be introduced to children at a young age. We have had our share of debate on the introduction of sex education in schools, which was definitely justified. But when our society is not out of the fundamental bias against the female sex, our priority must lie in making children aware of their basic acceptable social behavior and existence.

With such books and material introduced in schools, girls will become more confident and responsible of their duties. This will help them understand the vital role they will play in enhancing the worth of our social survival. At the same time boys will learn that girls are not just the softer sex. This will make them understand their responsibility to make our patriarchal society more encompassing and just. It will make them realize that the “boys are boys” attitude will harm not just their lives but will also break the delicate thread society is interwoven with.

Gender sensitization programs as a more explicit tool?

These lessons in empowerment will help boys realize at a very young age that they have proved to be harbingers of women empowerment in the past and should now develop a view that females are equals, not those to be dominated or suppressed. They will also understand that women are not the ones who always need to be protected. In fact, they will come to accept this obvious fact that the need for protection and the subsequent perpetuation of violence are related and form a vicious circle.

…the need for protection and the subsequent perpetuation of violence are related and form a vicious circle.

In this way we are dealing with this situation in the most logical way. Rather than leaving children to learn from their own bitter or sweet experiences later in life, there is a need to put in additional efforts on bringing the experiences of others to help. This way, a systematic approach will be in place, where children are taught at a young age to understand their responsibilities rather than later punishing them in courts. While this may stand true for every crime that is committed and every ethical aspect of life that is skipped, the issue of gender equality is the fundamental of social living. Rather than making it implicit to boys and girls, there is a need to deal with it explicitly. With this, a number of serious crimes and unacceptable practices will find a vent automatically.

Gender sensitization programmes must be formally launched in schools. When parents and teachers do not get enough time to interact with children about the important role they are going to play as future active members of society, such formal associations will go a long way to revamp society in totality. In such gender sensitization programmes and classes, children must be explicitly taught the negative effects of biased and primitive social conditioning. Parents and teachers must come up with innovative methods of enhancing the understanding of their children and their own idea of living in a just society.

Only such a targeted approach can lead to a better future. We certainly don’t want the continuance of such horrifying incidents of violence being perpetrated against one sex and the other sex being the perpetrator of such gruesome acts. While all the moral efforts and social legislations have failed to establish balance, let us refurbish our approach and take the pledge of doing our bit to remove injustice and gender bias from our society.

Two boys and a girl image courtesy Shutterstock

I am Niyati Sharma and have completed my Master's in Physics at BITS Pilani.

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Comments

2 Comments


  1. Very well written. We have spent most of our time and energy in westernising and made less effort to change fundamentally. The solution you presented may be a way out. Change should start from roots. Great job!

  2. I really liked this post. Most of the times we are questioning, complaining and blaming and rarely come up with workable solutions. You have come with something really subtle that we ignore most often. Such programs actually need to start.

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