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Making boys sit with girls was always looked at as a punishment. However, with changing times, we need to stop gender segregation and encourage friendships!
When I joined the prestigious Benaras Hindu University in the postgraduate department, I was totally uncomfortable! In the girls hostel, I was quite cool and very comfortable, but in the campus and in classes, I was nervous and totally disarrayed.
The reason was simple – I came from a very orthodox family where mingling between the genders was a taboo. I studied in a convent school and then at a women’s college. Even in clubs, we maintained a distance between us and the boys.
Whenever a boy spoke to me, I would be uncomfortable and taciturn. It took me almost a year to adjust and move around comfortably. However, my male friends turned out to be gentle and friendly. We are in touch even today, all thanks to my open-minded husband and social media.
But that was thirty-five years ago.
I am amazed to see that even in the present digital age, gender segregation is prevalent. There are co-ed institutions where boys and girls, either willingly or compulsorily, sit separately in the classrooms.
As punishment for breaking the rules, girls are even made to sit with boys and vice versa! The most apparent form of gender segregation is the prevalence of separate girls’ and boys’ schools and there are also separate colleges for women and men.
Parents are comfortable and at peace when their daughters study in an all girls’ school or college. Often they feel their child is safe from sexual harassment.
Sometime back in 2015, the then Education Minister of Kerala had explicitly disapproved of girls and boys sitting together in the class! I also read about Aligarh Muslim University where students from women’s college were forbidden to visit the main library because the VC felt the boys would be distracted. However, Smriti Irani had retaliated and declared this was “insulting our daughters.”
I feel, friendships are the most beautiful of relationships! When boys and girls are acquaintances, they look at each other as friends and as equals. No gender inequality. Both converse with sheer joy and equality.
A boy does not consider a girl lesser than him because of her gender. Neither does he think of her as meek and fit only for domestic chores or merely as sex objects! Similarly, the girl too looks upon the boy as a good friend and not as someone superior than her. Here they view each other as equals.
They are human beings both sharing and appreciating their opinions and feelings. Constant mingling makes them accept each other’s company as natural. I speak from my own personal and pleasant experiences.
Even in co-educational schools and colleges, we still see boys interacting with boys and girls interacting with girls. Intermingling is still not familiar. We need to change our attitudes with time. After all what is the fundamental aim of education? Obviously, it is to instil responsibility in the younger generation and prepare them for their nation and the world at large.
The world is filled with males, females and in fact, people of other genders too. Single-sex interaction and education will not solve the problem. Healthy friendships between boys and girls will strengthen their self-esteem and social skills.
Educational institutions are the ‘unifying structure in society’. They must encourage intermingling of boys and girls. Psychologists feel it is not only wrong but dangerous to instil in the young minds of children that “mingling of genders is shameful”.
My neighbour’s ten year old son would speak about all his friends, both boys and girls, with liveliness. But of late, he is silent about his female classmates.
Children are born without any bias or uneasiness around the opposite sex. It is adults who infuse all wrong notions in them. With change in society and the demands of democratic society, we also need to change.
Image via Pexels
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