Catch them young

I was standing in a school premise. It was October 2012. After about 4 months of planning ,I had finally coordinated my schedule with that of the school . The conception of the idea dated a year back. The Obstetrics and gynaecology Society of my city decided to take positive steps towards ensuring better adolescent health. We had launched the program and the idea was to go and teach the teenage girls about health, nutrition, normal and abnormal menstruation and most importantly sex education.

Thankfully the Principal of the school was progressive  enough to grant permission to have a class on sex education for the senior girls(11 and 12 th standard). I was a bit unsure how it would go. But I was positive about the need of such an education . All practicing gynecologists would agree over the alarming rate of teenage pregnancies and the despairing ignorance among teen girls regarding sex and its consequences.

So finally I was there. I had my power point presentation and I was well prepared with the issues I wanted to talk about besides the medical stuff. I wanted to talk to them about the need of personality development , building a high self-esteem , understanding themselves during these teenage years and the need to focus on studies and career . I had also researched a lot on the internet about sex education.

The class went exceptionally well. The girls were very attentive and responsive. When my presentation reached the sex education part I felt nervous. Honestly it is not easy to put the facts of life in front of a class of 150 odd girls. But the perspective I chose was mostly health issues associated with unwanted pregnancies and as the criticism of all sex education classes and workshops goes I also emphasized on abstinence. There was a brief mention of contraceptives. The response of the girls was very positive and encouraging. The message was registered . How it will be processed in their heads later on, is something I am clueless about as there was no questionnaire or follow-up and no questions were really posed by them.

I was very enthusiastic when the project was conceived. I found it a  great step towards educating adolescent girls . I remember the classes conducted in schools on menstruation  by a brand of sanitary napkins in my teen years and how wonderfully helpful they were for us. This would be a step ahead ‘cos we as gynecologists are in a better position to answer their queries. I actively tracked and gave inputs in the process of formulation of  the presentation and the brochures  . I got applauded after the class. But deep down I was not convinced. I felt a sense of something being grossly wrong. Though I had planned, prepared and executed the whole thing well.

The problem was that my target audience was incomplete. While I was teaching girls in the auditorium the boys were sitting in the classes wondering what was going on.

This question has deeply bothered me since then and I have not really taken a class after that due to paucity of time and more importantly that I am not convinced with’ teach the girls’ approach.

WHO WILL TEACH THE BOYS??

Yesterday I discussed this query with a  friend and he recommended that I should make efforts to include boys in any such educative programs. The male psyche needs to be understood and this knowledge should be used to bust myths and enlighten young boys so that they have a better outlook towards women.

Something similar was posted on IHM’s blog today

http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/sunitha-krishnan-spoke-in-my-kids-school-about-violence-against-women-only-girls-were-allowed-in-the-audience/day .

This propelled me to finally complete this post which was lying around as an idea in a draft.

HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO TEACH BOYS AT A YOUNG AGE?

I particularly remember two personal experiences

1. Rape scenes have frequently been part of movies. The first time I saw it in a movie was when I was 7. It was sunday movie.The victim is running frantically with her child while the villain chases her and finally overpowers her. Meanwhile they show  the husband , a police officer,  busy making strategies to reducing crime in the city in a meeting.Rest of the movie was about the police officer avenging his dead wife (cos obviously she committed suicide after the rape).

My reaction : I was scared , shocked and wept.

A coupe of years later I heard  my cousin ( a year older , who had seen a few such scenes in movies)  saying  ” Mai bade hoke ek ladaki ka rape zaroor karonga” . I was shocked .

I had given him some piece of my mind I guess. But now to think of it.A scene that traumatized me was interpreted by my cousin as pleasurable and thrilling. He failed to notice   the fact that it involved hurting someone and using force. He was just a kid . Now  I feel it is this time around when boys start confusing between sex and rape.

2. I lived in a hostel in Delhi for an year or so. There was an all boys school adjacent to the hostel. While we walked back to the hostel during the lunch break the kids  would be shouting a lot. One day I paid attention and was stunned. They were passing lewd comments at every passing girl and woman. This was not an isolated incidence but it was a daily business. These boys were  6th to 8th standard students.

I had always got this soft corner for school kids and this changed my perspective completely. I had the true urge to barge into the Principal’s office and report this.

I was very upset over this  and related this to a male  friend . He didn’t react to it much. However when the second time around the topic came up ‘cos I thought something needed to be done and these boys needed to be taught how to behave . I was in for another shock. He took it as if I was trying to impress upon him that I am so appealing that even kids were passing comments on me. I never discussed this with him again.

The alarming  rate of rapes ,gang rapes and rapes of children over the past several months has confirmed beyond doubt that it is sheer perversion and lack of respect for women. The fresh incidence of the rape and assault of a kidnapped 5 year old says a lot about the deteriorating mentality of men. While we are expressing rage over these crimes of sexual assault and rape . These are not point events. The seeds of which are sown long long back perhaps in the childhood of the perpetrator and fueled constantly over years . What we see is  the final burst . Finding justice for a rape victim is as complex as the genesis of the crime. Rape survivors are either sympathised with, abhored, outcasted, or if they are strong bravehearts made heroes but no one ever sees them as a normal human again.

The responses to these crimes have also been deeply traumatic. Every sensible citizen of India has been hurt and has condemned the myriad irresponsible and shocking statement made by the policemen, Godmen and politicians made in the aftermath of rapes. However they never stop . These are educated men of influence and power from whom the younger men continuously learn this patriarchal and misogynistic attitude.

SOME THOUGHT PROVOKING POSITIVE EXAMPLES

I read this beautiful letter written by a mother to her son regarding the importance of consent. She was stirred by the Steubeville rape case and the later conviction of the accused .

http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/a-letter-to-my-son-about-consent/

If you have clicked on the link you would have also seen the website THE GOOD MEN PROJECT. It was very heartening to find this site and it generated some hope that some positive efforts are being made  to curb the societal deterioration.

I would also mention Tony Porter’s TED talk : A call to men (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td1PbsV6B80). His description of the Man Box was very enlightening and brings forth certain vital truths which can lead us to real solutions for crime against women.

“We need to challenge this man box and deconstruct and redefine what manhood is.”

Having said all that I come back to the same query WHO WILL TEACH THE BOYS????

*We seriously need to ponder on this. The answers will come from us and would really require many paradigm shifts , many changes in the ways we think and a lot of open mindedness and determination.

*Since all this is inculcated in the male child as a process of socialization . I feel it would intervention at multiple levels.

Parents

Family

School

Peer groups

* The intelligentia of the society will have to make commitment towards this goal. Educating boys should be considered as important as educating girls. Psychological tools should be used to design methods of conveying these messages in a powerful manner to the young minds.

* Media involvement. Movies, theatre, street plays, social messages , role plays should be employed to redefine manhood and expand understanding of a young boy so that he is well equipped to behave in a cordial manner with female counterparts, befriend them, understand them, accept them, be open to express their feelings and more than that patient and sensible enough to take rejections gracefully.

I have been thinking on the above lines. A lot of you would be thinking likewise. However more brainstorming and participation is required.

Each individual at their own level has to give a micro solution to this problem. I am still wondering how I can include boys in this adolescent health education class? How can I expand my understanding and find those who could help me in this direction?

I would really love to hear from people who can help me in this direction. Any example of such educative ventures or workshop being conducted for boys would be very helpful.

I look forward to a day when being called a ‘Girl’ is not offensive for boys , when the collective socialisation of men would not propel them to violence against women as when men would understand that their liberation as men is tied to liberation of women!


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