This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Niyati Sharma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The #BoysLockerRoom Is A Wake-Up Call For Schools To Step Up

TW: Mentions of assault, rape, cyberbullying.

These students don’t need to know anything about this [sexual health] until they are married, it is inappropriate.” This was said to me by the principal of a Delhi-based English medium private school during a workshop with female students in grade 9 about sexual well-being and reproductive rights.

Burying conversations, policing female students, and the lack of sensitisation training provided to teachers is a common occurrence in schools across Delhi and beyond. When a Delhi girl exposed a ‘bois locker room‘ group chat and its participants on Instagram late last night, social media blew up with conversations about how girls are sexually exploited by sharing private images of them without their consent among third parties and threatening comments that go to the extent of rape threats. While this incident is shocking and despicable, it is certainly not new.

 

Shows permission to recirculate the information put up by the concerned user.  Source: Instagram

I have, firsthand, witnessed groups of boys as young as 14-years of age in schools participating in such activities in varying degrees. Having a girl’s private photos was, and is, considered a kind of achievement for them to boast about, and share among their friends who are just as complicit. When I first witnessed this happen at my own school, I was in ninth grade myself and not one boy, nor teacher stood up for all the girl students who were silently going through this traumatic experience. It was an open secret that no one had the courage to call out. Perhaps out of fear, shame, or simply because they themselves allowed such activities to take place.

However, despite multiple calls to action at an individual level calling for introspection, courage, empathy, and support, I am yet to see an important stakeholder take the responsibility of changing such a mindset: schools.

The ‘Bois Locker Room‘ incident is one case in the hundreds that take place in each school all the time. Schools have a duty to acknowledge that such atrocious activities sometimes begin in their own backyard and they must step forward to protect the youth that they play such an important role in shaping.

Schools play a role in normalising this behaviour by either playing an active role in subduing it, humiliating students publicly for expression or dissent, or simply sweeping them under the rug. It is time to own up to our role in allowing this to happen.

This is not a one-time conversation but one that needs to be encouraged, supported, and imbibed at all levels starting from the hub of all educational activity. After working with and being a part of a number of schools and organisations, here are a few simple actionable steps that schools can take to create a safe learning environment to allow their students to thrive by making them responsible and empowered.

Representational image. I see so many individuals and groups talk about how students are “too young” to understand concepts of such complexity but, in fact, there is never a better time than to start these conversations when the mind is still impressionable.
  • The first and perhaps most important step is to sensitise not just students, but also parents and teachers on a regular basis. Concepts like health boundaries, consent, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity cannot be solved overnight or with one workshop. They need to be constantly brought up and be entrenched as a part of every initiative the school takes.
  • Involving parents in the discourse is essential to ensure that the same themes are repeated in the household so that schools and families can take a collaborative approach to remove stigmas and normalising conversations that are often difficult to navigate.
  • Start the conversation early. I see so many individuals and groups talk about how students are “too young” to understand concepts of such complexity but, in fact, there is never a better time than to start these conversations when the mind is still impressionable. Mutual respect; consent; differentiating between safe unsafe and unwanted; toxic behaviour; and gender stereotypes are only complicated if you make them out to be so. Children are willing to listen, it is up to you to raise your voice.
  • Stop shying away from the evident need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education. It is a difficult conversation but not an impossible one that can be started gradually. The glaring need to discuss these important subjects has come up time and again yet we continue to remain ignorant.

    For the lack of a better phrase, stop half ass-ing your responsibility to your students by implementing a program that is ineffective, impractical, non-inclusive, and is only meant for you to earn brownie points.

  • Regular training for teachers on how to handle such cases with sensitivity and conduct themselves in day-to-day scenarios. We all come from different backgrounds and with different beliefs, but in a school setting our teachers act as our role models. I distinctly remember a conference for which my friends and I wore Indian suits and a teacher nearby said, “I thought these girls only signed up for the conference because they wanted to wear short dresses.” This is just a small example of how teachers can unconsciously, and consciously, perpetuate problematic stereotypes that make students believe it is okay to objectify and sexualise their fellow classmates.

    Representational image. We all come from different backgrounds and with different beliefs, but in a school setting our teachers act as our role models.
  • Institute an unbiased and independent sexual harassment committee that regularly looks into such matters and provides a space for students to seek help without fear of judgement or repercussions while taking their agency into account. Schools should circulate clear guidelines and complete transparency to all stakeholders about the functioning of this committee.
  • Develop proactive counselling channel that makes professional counselling services available to students. While many schools have councillors, they tend to only intervene in extreme cases and are often ineffective in bringing about systemic change.

Finally, I encourage schools to take the first step, initiate the conversation. You are responsible for creating the space required for these conversations to be brought to the right authorities. You are the ones who set an example for the hundreds, if not thousands, of students you impact every day with the way you handle situations that impinge on their long-term mental health and well-being.

Featured image for representation only.
You must be to comment.

More from Niyati Sharma

Similar Posts

By Vanita Ganesh

By Azad India Foundation

By Aastha Singh

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below