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#BoisLockerRoom: A Society That Is Well-Schooled But Not Well Educated

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This morning I woke up to many of my friends sharing stories of something called Bois Locker Room. It was an extremely disturbing thing to see how hundreds of school-going boys had made a private group on Instagram, explicitly to share photos of girls, and passing sleazy comments on them. This is one of the many incidents that show what is wrong with us as a society, we who call ourselves ‘well-educated’.

In a chat transcript that was almost a hundred pages long, the boys are seen making comments about girls’ breasts, their figures, body shaming. Words like gang rape and gangbang were used like it was commonplace. While users on Twitter and Instagram were in no mood to forgive or let go any of this, we have a bigger question to address. Are we really well-educated? Or are we just a society that is just well-schooled, but lacks a fundamental moral compass? Who is to blame? What can be done about this?

As a nation, we have a very limited discourse on rape culture and casual sexism. On top of that, media representation, movies, culture at home, and a highly patriarchal environment breeds attitudes such as these where boys exercise control and feel entitled to talk about women and their bodies, and shamelessly pass rape threats like an everyday occurrence. So before this topic goes away like all others and we go back to living our lives and forgetting about this incident, let’s try to objectively look at some of the factors that either directly or indirectly contribute to normalising rape culture in India.

1. News Coverage on Rape

It is no news that Indian journalism has recently turned out to be highly problematic. However, reporting of rapes in India has been a problem since long. The way you read your news shapes the way you think about the particular topic to a large extent. It has been very evident that the media focuses a lot of victim-blaming or putting the news in a different way. For example, “Woman brutally raped in Delhi” would have a different impact than the headline “38-year old man brutally rapes woman in Delhi”. Although it might seem like a very minor change, it subconsciously frames your thoughts that later breed into something more dangerous.

It is not very difficult to spot the bias of media. Just type “news coverage of rapes in India” and see how in every rape case that is reported, the headline often talks about the woman who is raped.

2. Adults’ Attitude – “Boys will be boys!”

It was very shocking when I first read about how Indian politicians, lawmakers look at death penalty and rape, and how they casually blame the victim as well. The problem here is that it reflects the perception of Indian society in a nutshell. ‘Boys will be boys!’  – how this phrase is used to justify the points of the highly immoral act and how we as a society have legitimised boys being entitled to do whatever they wish to do.

3. Parenting And Social Identity

The birth of a boy is still celebrated more than that of a girl. There are stark differences between how boys and girls are offered different opportunities while growing up. When I was in Uttarakhand in 2019, I saw how both boys and girls had equal access to formal schooling. However, after delving deeper, I realised that there was discrimination based on gender. Boys had access to private schools while girls went to public schools. This comes from the society’s perception that public schools are not as good as private schools and hence even though there is no evident problem in accessing formal schooling, there were clear discriminations in the way these opportunities were divided between girls and boys.

‘Boys have it easy’ is true in a lot of families. A girl is not allowed to go out at night but a boy can. Drinking and partying can issue a character certificate to a girl almost instantly but not to a boy, only goes on to reinforce the already existing differences. The same social rules are also replicated in schools. In government schools of Bangalore, boys and girls are delegated work in classrooms that highly complement the society’s expectations from a girl and a boy after their schooling lives. For example, cleaning the classroom is often a girl student’s job whereas lifting something heavy or leading a class is often a boy student’s work. Although we may not do all these deliberately, it does have a direct effect on the way a child imagines a society and the role of a boy and a girl in it.

4. Media Culture

I have had serious problems with the current media and its influence of the Indian youth. Songs that objectify women in all the wrong ways are becoming hit and rappers use them very opportunistically to gain fame, not realising the impact it can have on the youth.

How casually does a singer talk about the woman’s body, comparing it with other women, and how common have songs like these become? They become hit, viral on social media platforms, millions of Tik Tok videos are made, and finally, this reaches our youth, our children, in all its glory.

Looking at just two or three problems will not help us come to a solution about an issue of casual sexism, patriarchy, and gender discrimination. As individuals, we can do out bit and stop it at the minimum possible level that we can. Engage in discourses around not normalising commenting on female bodies and making sleazy comments, and not to be afraid to call out idiots who engage in such practices.

Whatever happened that caused a roar, was just one group on Instagram. There may be more, hundreds or thousands. One maybe well-schooled but it does not make them well-educated. Someone who is well-educated has a strong moral compass, someone who is educated understands that you are not entitled to share someone else’s pictures and comment on them.

Strive to be well-educated, not well-schooled. And this will not happen by going to expensive private schools, but to have a conducive environment outside schools as well.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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