January 17, 2018
Many schools in India segregate boys and girls in the name of ‘discipline’.
A few reputed schools known specifically for coaching students to secure high marks in board exams do not allow boys and girls to talk to each other on school premises. They cannot use the same corridor and staircase. Students are viewed in the school bus through cameras to ensure that they do not speak to the opposite gender. Disciplinary action is taken against the ones who do not follow these rules.
A leading private school expelled two of its students – a girl and a boy – for `hugging’ in public, triggering a raging debate on discipline and morality in a Southern State.
The girl, a Class 11 student, was embraced by the senior boy in front of the audience after she got the first prize in a Western musical contest.
I feel we should not segregate students on the basis of gender in school.
Interacting with people of the opposite sex is part of healthy growing.
A boy who has a girl as his bestie, would not hurt another woman, and vice versa. Students who grew up with a mixed gender group developed mutual respect for each other.
It gives an opportunity for a guy to know what a girl goes through, as she matures into a woman. He learns from his fellow girl classmates about the family influences, cultural constraints and societal restrictions a girl faces. He gets to know the physical challenges she goes through during her menstrual period. He learns that it is not an easy job to travel to school, complete assignments and manage physical training classes while she is menstruating.
Similarly, a girl learns the difficulties a boy would face in his day to day life. There are many people and organisations which speak about women empowerment and work towards it. But I’m unable to recollect organisations which work for men empowerment. Men too undergo family and societal pressures. They are not even allowed to cry, as our society thinks, that a male child should not cry, and a man who cries displays weakness.
Boys who socialise with their fellow girl classmates know how to behave with a girl in public. They are more likely to be protective of a woman. Such a boy would neither eve tease nor sexually harass a woman.
A woman who has closely watched her fellow boy classmates as a girl, is likely to be an understanding and supportive life partner to her husband (vice versa).
So we adults need to think broadly and encourage the younger generation to grow healthy through interactions with their fellow school/classmates without gender bias and stereotypes.
This paves the way for non-offences against woman and creates responsible adults and a safe place for children to grow. Thus our society reforms itself for the better.
We need to give our students the roots of responsibility and wings of independence.
The author of the column is Swathi Priya. P , Counselling Psychologist
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own