A New Era of Education, Sexual identity and Gender Study a must?
By Anahita Verma
Being a country with diversity and conservative ideas, accepting a community challenging norms of sexuality from some time now seems like a tedious idea to be accepted by the people in a country like India. Recorded in history many a times, the ancient texts hold a significance in the history of legalizing Section 377 in our constitution, which declares homosexuality a crime, and punishable as an offence by the law. Historical data provides various insights into the prevalence of homosexuality amongst the medieval and ancient India, and how it gained momentum to be legalized based upon the work of various people, especially young student community, that came forward to support these people in leading a revolutionary decision, which has changed the social norms, structure, thinking and values of the people in our country today.
The LGBTQA+ community in our country has always been discriminated solely on the basis of their choice of sexuality. Being human, they hold the rights to their own bodies and mindsets which they have given up due to the stigma it holds in the society. It has taken a lot of time for the society to come across and wrap the idea around their head but the society still needs to find acceptance amongst them. Homophobia still lingers around our minds and even when homosexuality is normalized, certain sections of society still find a way to build a stigma around it and talk about it as a ‘western’ or ‘alien’ concept.
The Youth and the LGBTQ+
Here we talk about how the ‘Gen Z’ has lent their support to this part of the society and how they too, struggle with it on a daily basis. Discussion on how the youth is revolutionizing the society and how the coming generation needs to be inspired and addressed is talked about. Schools, colleges, educational institutions and workplaces have set great examples of supporting this movement and while this movement has a long way to go, we can only hope and give our supports so that the people understand our perspectives and start supporting this community. For a progressive society, each and every one of us has to come together and create a safe environment, to make them feel a part of the society.
From the moment this struggle started, different institutions and organizations from different walks of life, including educational and corporate sector have come forward to voice their support towards this issue. With just a click, you can find numerous articles professing their support towards uplifting this community. For example, students, alumni and teachers of various IIT’s have formed different societies supporting the cause and support from Indian youth from around the world- which is clearly professed by the headlines like- “MIT Sloan student form LGBT India foundation”, “Oxford students come out in protest against India Homosexuality ban” and “Working with the next generation: LGBT in India - some home truths”.
On one hand, the youth is empowering this community, but on the other, there are some facts at the basic level that we cannot neglect. The ones supporting the cause have learned the facets of the community through their, friends, family or near and dear ones. This is why they see the truth and decide to view it with a different perspective. This is not the education or ‘topic’ discussed at a basic level, that is why it is labeled as a taboo.
Sexual education, gender sensitization and gender studies are the topics that our ‘GEN Z’ needs to know about from the minute they start their educational and adolescent journeys. There are positive as well as negative aspects to every issue, and this issue also has one. On one hand, where the youth is providing unconditional support to this section of the society, many individuals face plethora of bullying, harassment and psychological abuse and that too, at a very young age, due to a lack of proper knowledge on the topic.
One such example is of A student of psychology and economics, St. Xavier’s College Mumbai, Sukhnidh Kaur who conducted a survey asking such students to share their perspectives and experiences at school. And the 180 responses she has received till date paint a stark, grotesque picture of the harassment meted out to many young students who, either consciously or otherwise, display traits of alternate sexuality. Stirred by various reports- from a 15- year old in Tiruchirapally driven to suicide by the constant bullying of peers for being ‘feminine’ to that of 10 Kolkata girls forced to ‘confess’ to their homosexuality- Sukhnidh decided to focus the spotlight to schools, which play a huge role in shaping social norms and attitudes of future generation. “We forget that young school students who are in the process of figuring out and settling into their individual identities and orientations require support.
Discrimination and abuse within schools is overlooked because the victims are young, queer people. These students suffer silently, and there is a pressing need to bring this issue to light,” says Sukhnidh. Her alarming findings only corroborate that need. From Chennai to Lucknow, form Kolkata to Jaipur- the trends is eerily similar. These are students at a very tender age who, as Sukhnidh points out, are only in the process of discovering themselves and their sexuality. In many cases, even taking up the cause of people from the LGBTQA+ community has invited wrath and disapproval of authorities.
The Need For LGBTQ+ Education
It is high time to acknowledge the need of providing proper education on these topics, rather than neglecting it on the basis of cultural and social ramifications. Many attempts have already been made, where in 2005, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) issued a circular, introducing a program called, ‘The Adolescence Reproductive and Sexual Health Education (ASRH project).
The central government released it in 2006. Though it was incorporated by few states, however they adopted the project with variations according to what they considered to be important. A report on sexuality education in India by the ‘Youth coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights’, an international organization noted that, ‘most schools, private and public affiliated state boards of secondary education don’t have any form of sexuality education in their curriculum.’ There has been constant claim that the incorporation of sex education will increase ‘risky behavior’ amongst adolescents and young students.
From the above examples from the support from students within India as well as from around the world, it can be said that the student community is well aware of the ideology and phenomena of sexuality and agrees fairly in this context while supporting their peers as well as people of all age groups in identifying their sexuality and supporting them in ‘coming out’ to the world and embracing their identities while standing with them. while this education is a necessity at a small age where the root of this bias and discrimination lies, time shall not be wasted and children should be made aware at a young age so that the people who are struggling with their sexuality feel at ease and do not feel like a stranger and criminal in the eyes of the society.
Cases of harassment, abuse, physical assault among young children on the basis of homosexual grounds can be curbed to a large extent if and only if this education is imparted in every classroom of our country without feeling shy and disgusted by the nature of it. The country needs such young individuals who can boldly speak out their views and accept every person’s choice that lives in the society. New policies to protect and safeguard the interest of these people should be introduced.
Support from student community provides a ray of hope for all the youth and old generation of the society to find acceptance towards modern ideologies and the choices that people make in their own lives, and be happy and content with them.
With the new education policy coming into force, it is natural to expect the incorporation of such bold yet necessary topics into the curriculum, which can provide a safeguard to the coming generations in regards to their sexual identities as well as curb the rates of bullying, harassment and the day to day difficulty this part of our society faces, as well as clear the misconceptions that linger around this community.
Bhattacharya, Sen Satpura, “Labeled, bullied, humiliated: What LGBT students in our schools go through”, June 11 2018, “Citizen Matters”, https://citizenmatters.in/india-city-schools-homophobia-lgbt-discrimination-gender-research-6863
Chowdhury, Joyoti, “Why is sex or sexuality in Indian schools still a taboo?” 9 March 2020, “Feminism in India” (FII), https://feminisminindia.com/2020/03/09/why-sex-sexuality-education-indian-schools-taboo/
Davies, Matthew, “Oxford students come out in protest against India Homosexuality Ban”, 20 December.2013, “the Oxford Student”, https://www.oxfordstudent.com/2013/12/20/oxford-students-come-out-in-protest-against-India-homosexuality-ban/
Guest writer, “recommendations on draft new education policy 2019 from a gender And sexuality lens”, 27 June. 2019, “Feminism in India” (FII), https://feminisminindia.com/2019/06/27/recommendations-new-education-policy-2019-gender-sexuality-lens/
Johari, Aarefa, “20 LGBT students, alumni from IIT’s have moved the Supreme Court to decriminalize homosexuality”, May 14. 2018, https://scroll.in/article/878988/20-LGBT-students-alumni-from-iits-have-moved-the-Supreme-Court-to-decriminalize-homosexuality
Patel, Rashmi, “Being LGBT in India: some home truths”, 27 August.2016,” live mint”, https://www.livemint.com/sundayapp/sAYrieZdZKEybKzhP8FDbP/being-LGBT-in-India-some-home-truths.html
Tudor, Grant, “MIT Sloan student forms LGBT