By Chirali Sharma:
With crimes against women only increasing by the day, life in India has become a combination of precautionary measures, having an in-depth knowledge of which area is safe at what time and posting angry posts on social media when something goes awry.
Be it Uber, be it school, be it anywhere, and the recent horrific Kathua rape case where an 8-year-old girl was raped and then killed is just proof that no place is safe now.
In the midst of this, it is important that people get over the victim shaming mentality and understand that it is not the girls who need to be taught a lesson but instead, it is the boys who need to learn more about consent, rights, the individuality of a woman, sexism, and more.
A great example of this and some might even find it surprising comes from the country of Kenya in East Africa.
Young boys are now being taught about a wide variety of subjects in these ‘consent classes’ as they are called in Nairobi, the capital city.
A group called ‘No Means No Worldwide’ in collaboration with Ujaama Africa and UK Department for International Development has been holding classes since 2009 and till now has taught about 180,000 boys and girls.
The classes conducted in Malawi and Kenya teach young boys about positive masculinity, standing up for women when needed, sexual health, peer pressure and healthy relationships.
This is a great step towards changing the distant and insensitive mentality that men often have regarding rape, and these lessons are preventing harassment.
It was noticed, as per sources, that before these classes boys would justify rape if the woman was taken on expensive dates, wore miniskirts, or are out on the streets alone at night.
However, as observed this mentality changed after only a couple of sessions, and boys became more aware of their responsibility towards women.
Apart from this, girls are given their own classes where they are taught self-defence measures, acknowledgement of survivors of sexual harassment and abuse who are then given the required support.
They are also taught various skills of getting away from their abuser and told important lines to remember like ‘this is wrong’, ‘no’, ‘you can’t touch me’ and more.
These lines are extremely important as it psychologically urges the woman to take action against the harassment being meted out to her.
According to sources, after these classes, there was a drastic drop of almost 51% in rape incidents and even a number of boys intervening while a girl was being harassed went up from a measly 26% to a remarkable 74%.
These classes made me realise that men and young boys in India desperately need an understanding of consent and taking action when a girl is being harassed.
The Indian public has a bad spectator mentality where they will readily stand and watch something wrong being done (or even worse: take videos) but not take any action to help the victim or stop it.
Their fears generally run from getting attacked themselves or if they help the victim get to a police station or hospital then getting entangled in legal affairs.
These classes, on the other hand, can work wonders if introduced into the education system as teaching such things from a young age only will allow them to understand and remember what is right and what is wrong.
A version of this post was first published here.