TW: Sexual Harassment of Students and Minors
Society’s “morality” and how it seeps into education institutes
As we look through some of the disturbing testimonies that students have come forward with, we can notice a recurring pattern in the harassment and discrimination that has taken place.
Most schools, especially private schools, adhere to a particular set of rules or “moral systems”, where non-male students and students from marginalized communities and castes become the system’s targets. Some of these testimonies stretch back to more than a decade ago, indicating that this culture of harassment and discrimination is not new and has persisted for a long time.
Therefore, the current arrest of teachers does not immediately annihilate the ongoing harassment and discrimination in schools. The schools claiming to be ‘unaware’ of assaults does not negate the reality that these instances occurred and will continue to occur. Living in a victim-blaming society inherently grants aggressors enormous impunity due to a lack of faith in survivors.
Addressing the present situation and working on urgent action is merely one step, if not the first, towards a longer journey of a safer and more inclusive educational environment — without which the minor students will remain vulnerable to harm — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Why do we need long-term solutions?
It is critical to recognise that children are moulded and impacted by their systems: social, cultural, economic, or political. Children spend most of their time at school, where particular prejudicial systems based on caste, gender, and class dominate and replicate themselves, creating a vicious cycle that traps them.
From this train of thought, if such systems of harassment and discrimination shape the child’s early life, these are the views that they will eventually carry out into the world. If this cycle is to be brought to an end, only a change in the existing system can do so. Therefore, we urge schools and concerned authorities to explore structural strategies that can address these issues in the long run.
What are some of the long-term actions that schools can implement?
- Sensitisation sessions for the teachers as well as the students must be mandatory.
- We propose that sex education lessons focusing on consent and bodily autonomy are conducted, eliminating the stigma surrounding sex and helping students engage in meaningful conversations that will allow them to make informed responsible choices.
- Sessions focusing on POCSO and child rights are necessary because children must understand that they are not alone and that there are ways in which they can seek redressal.
- Sensitisation lessons, both within the classroom and outside of it, on all caste, gender, and class-based issues can also play a crucial role in breaking existing harmful belief systems.
- Establishing an active Internal Complaints Committee in compliance with the guidelines mentioned in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 should be mandatory in all schools.
- To increase transparency in case of any incident, the school management must make their existing (or) modified Child Protection Policy against all kinds of harassment available to the public.
- With the above measures at hand, the school management must hold accountability if they fail to prioritise their students’ safety and if they do not take the initiative with serious internal allegations of harassment to conduct unbiased and transparent investigations.
You can take a step towards ensuring long-term student safety. Sign our petition urging PSBB KK Nagar to take accountability and implement long-term structural plans in their school. If you would like to report incidents of any form of discrimination or harassment you have faced in school, you can head to this Google form or visit the @student_testimonies Instagram page to talk about your experience.