creating safe spaces for open conversations & more

To end violence against women, you first have to name it, know it, and recognize its many forms as an unacceptable assault upon the dignity of women and all society.

I am a facilitator at an NGO called Seeds of Awareness. We hold sessions on sexual health at different low-income schools across Mumbai. For several years we have been trying to understand the complexities of this situation, and the best way to handle it.

Inaccessible and Stigmatised – Sex Education

Sex Education is relatively inaccessible in many parts of India. Currently, almost half of Indian population is within the age group of 18-35 and the majority of the crowd do not have access to correct information about sexual health. Plus, sex is stigmatized in our society, even if the youth want to seek help there is no place they can go to. And thus, they resort to seeking information from other avenues like watching pornography.

Is Sex Education Gender Sensitisation?

A lot of times there’s apprehension and confusion among parents, teachers, schools and even children on what gender sensitisation really means. While sexual health and knowledge empowers children, it’s also crucial to look at psycho-social conditioning and biases that are developed among children from an early age. It’s important to address behavioural patterns and perspectives, that enable children to develop a healthy attitude towards both their own sex and the opposite sex.

Mixed Messaging – A thin line between romance and crime?

The youth of India pick up a lot of mixed messaging from the media, the society and their friends. Hence, they are already confused. They think that following a girl and harassing her would make her fall in love. Youth also end up resorting to violence (rape, molestation, voyeurism, human trafficking, child sexual abuse etc.) as there is no place to have an open conversation.

Conditioning and gender bias

During our childhood years, we are told that a girl and a boy has a set of spoken/unspoken rules - this leads to discrimination on so many levels. If we are to concentrate on sexual health, then we are conditioned to believe that a girl should never ask for sex or be caught dead buying a condom. There are still parts of India where women and sometimes men do not have rights over their own sexual-reproductive health.

Social media and internet

Thanks to technology, the youth today has access to a lot of explicit content (read: pornography). This leads to exploration and experimentation without the safety blanket of gender sensitisation, which could go horribly wrong.

Reaching Out and Making a Difference

Until now we have been able to work with over 2000 children in about 15 schools in Mumbai, and the response has been phenomenal. We use Bollywood/Hollywood videos, dance movement therapy, sharing circles and many activities to make the sessions very interactive and spread awareness about feelings, communication, gender, stereotyping, body image, sexual / domestic violence, consent, sexuality, social media, along with anatomy and reproduction.

The children initially are in shock, but are later receptive and want us to do sessions for their parents too. These formats of gender sensitization initiatives go a long way in reducing violence against women and enable children to grow into individuals who take informed decision that are healthy for them. However, for these initiatives to have the desired effect, it needs to reach out to each and every child in every nook and corner of India.

Hence, we urge you to join the movement for making gender sensitization compulsory in school curriculum, to pave the way for a better tomorrow.

Sign Tata Tea’s petition for making gender sensitization compulsory in the school curriculum to pave the way for a better tomorrow. Click on Link or call 7815966666 toll free.

Alarm Bajne Se Pehle Jaago Re!

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Trishna Panchal

Trishna Panchal is a facilitator at the NGO Seeds of Awareness that works in the area of Comprehensive Sexuality Education.

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