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#BoisLockerRoom Showed The Importance Of Digital Safety Through Sex Education

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Trigger warning: sexual abuse

By Mousomi Panda, a KYBKYR Campaign Fellow at The YP Foundation

On Digital Spaces And The Mushrooming Of Locker Rooms

In May 2020, the Bois Locker Room incident surfaced over the internet. It involved a private Instagram group where minor boys shared private and morphed pictures of girls, talked about sexually assaulting them, and posted messages objectifying them. Soon, the story was picked up by national and international media and evoked diverse reactions from the community. Some parents expressed their anger and shock at the incident and talked about the hazards of digital spaces, while some citizens advocated for the digital safety of adolescents and youth. This incident was not a unique one.

In 2015, two Facebook pages in regional languages openly posted pictures of minor girls with explicit captions like “What would you like to do with her?.” In 2016, 47 minors were found watching porn and other explicit content in cyber cafes in Hyderabad after skipping school.

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In the Bois Locker Room incident, the parents of minors expressed their shock, the teachers took the incident as a warning to be more vigilant, and unfortunately for the minors, the case ended with the police parading them in front of the media as a moral lesson.

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, of the 451 million monthly active internet users in India, 66 million are in the age bracket of 5-11 years and two-thirds are in the age group of 12-29 years. 28.4% of social media conversations are between people aged 13 to 23.

With the pandemic-enforced lockdown, schools, tuitions, and colleges have moved online. This has pushed even younger kids deeper into the digital world. But, as this shift takes place, most parents and teachers remain ill-equipped with skills and tools to help adolescents navigate digital spaces safely and respectfully.

Adolescents, Online Spaces, And Sexuality

As we look for answers to when and why our digital spaces become locker rooms, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. What are safe spaces for adolescents to only talk about their bodies, sexuality, and desires? What are safe spaces for adolescents to explore pleasure? Are these spaces cognisant of mutual consent? How can adolescents express their sexuality without violating the rights of other individuals and, knowingly or unknowingly, indulging in cyber or other forms of abuse?

Adolescents need safe and non-judgmental spaces to openly discuss their bodies, sexuality, and desires. The culture of monitoring, control, and silence around these issues deprives adolescents of a healthy understanding of boundaries in and outside relationships. They seek a forum to navigate the inevitable physical, emotional, and hormonal changes taking place and often look for answers online. With the world fastly moving from physical to digital interaction, young people are taking their relationships online.

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To a certain extent, online spaces provide agency and anonymity to adolescents to explore their curiosity around sexual interest and express their sexual desires. But, at the same time, there is no escape from unfiltered violent and sexually explicit content in the digital world.

Adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit content like porn, which is heavily proliferated with violent and non-consensual porn and often includes child sexual abuse material, lead to skewed understandings of sex and desire.

Consequently, adolescents end up taking refuge in digital spaces and use social media as an outlet to express their sexuality without much consideration for the dignity, privacy, and consent of others.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Demographically, India has the largest youth population in the world with 27% of the population under the age of 15 and 26% within the age bracket of 15-29. The number of adolescents and young people accessing and exploring the digital space is only going to grow. But, if they go on to do so without an understanding of comprehensive sexuality education, they are likely to overstep the boundaries of other individuals.

Comprehensive sexuality education is “a rights-based and gender-focused approach to sexuality education, whether in school or out of school. The curriculum-based education of CSE aims to equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that will enable them to develop a positive view of their sexuality, in the context of their emotional and social development.”

CSE includes key components like gender, sexual rights, pleasure, consent, violence, and relationships. It is an important tool for young people in many ways. It equips them with information and skills to question the rigid stereotypes on gender, sex, masculinity, and femininity which are integral to address gender inequality. It also introduces them to communication tools which they can use to express their sexual desires in a healthy manner. CSE also builds young people’s understanding of various forms of violence, its impact on victims, and sensitises them for building healthy relationships free from violence.

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In the absence of rights-bearing and sex-positive language to talk about bodies and desire, adolescents assume that actions exhibited in online content are the norm. Oftentimes, these actions are reflective of masculine privilege and gender inequalities. This can lead adolescents to accept misogynistic and sexist norms and exhibit similar behaviour online.

If we try to identify CSE principles in the Bois Locker room case, we find a complete absence of consent, privacy, autonomy, and mutually respectful relationships. As much as it reveals some teenage boys’ toxic attitudes and violent behaviours towards women, it also points to the gaping need to equip young people with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values they need to enjoy both their sexuality and the autonomy of other individuals, in or outside relationships.

For a brief guide on what CSE is all about and how to talk to young people about sexuality, check out The YP Foundation’s resource kits. To understand more about why and how to talk to young people about sexuality and bodies, have a look at TARSHI’Sresource kits.


As society still maintains a conservative attitude towards sex and refuses to provide young people with open and much-needed information about bodies and relationships, young people resort to digital spaces to find answers.

Sexting is the act of “sending and receiving sexually explicit or suggestive images, messages, or video clips using electronic devices or the internet.”

With early access to gadgets and the internet, sexting has become a preferred tool for young people to explore their sexuality and engage in intimacy as it provides them with space without moral censure and excessive supervision of adults. When done consensually and with respect for the privacy and digital safety of all participants, sexting can create a healthy understanding of bodies, pleasure, and relationships.

Mobile video calling
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So… What Can Parents Possibly Do?

Young people are likely to explore their bodies, sexuality, and sexual desires at some point in their life and adults can no longer fail young people in giving them appropriate information that is crucial for their well-being. One cannot control the physical, emotional, and psychological changes that young people experience.

Parents and other trusted adults need to understand that silence around sex and sexting makes young people vulnerable to peer pressure, cyberbullying, and other forms of violence. In such cases, parents are more likely to find out about young people engaging in sexting when their privacy and safety have been compromised. There is a need for parents to participate with the kids in the discussion around consent, sex, bodily autonomy, privacy and digital safety.

Sexting can also get young people in legal trouble for circulation of pornographic material, violation of privacy, objectionable behaviour online, and cyber abuse. Such incidents can fall on a wide spectrum as the adolescent can be at the receiving end of abuse, the perpetrator of abuse, or can participate passively and actively in the process without realising legal and other implications of their actions.

If young people are not sensitised to make informed choices for themselves, it is likely that they can also be booked for various offences. This means they can be covered under penal provisions of various statutes like the Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act), the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO Act).

The minors in such cases are said to be in “conflict with law” and can be penalised under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. The juveniles can be sentenced to a maximum punishment of three years apart from being fined and subjected to other corrective measures. In the case of severe offences, minors between the age of 16-18 years can also be tried as adults and subjected to more stringent punishments.

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Resorting to shaming, moral censure, judgment, punishment, and failure to deal sensitively with such incidents can be even more detrimental. It is time for adults not to turn a blind eye and instead to develop a non-judgmental communication bridge with young people.

Contrary to popular myths and belief that imparting information on sexuality will morally corrupt young people, CSE has a positive role to play by helping them make better-informed choices. It is long due that the potential of comprehensive sexuality education is acknowledged in order to address recurring instances like Bois Locker Room.

Parents can make sure that young people get access to proper information on comprehensive sexuality education that is age-appropriate, sensitive, and rights-based. Here are some resources that parents can utilise while initiating the talk with young people:

  1. Planned Parenthood has a list of comprehensive, engaging, and short videos ranging from body anatomy, gender, healthy relationships, sex and sexual abuse to help parents be supportive of their children.
  2. The Planned Parenthood website has age-wise guides on personal safety including internet safety.
  3. Teaching Sexual Health has resources both for parents and teachers which are segregated by age and topics. Specific resources on understanding a parent’s role can be found here. Resources on how to address sexting, pornography, and the use of technology and media can be found here.
  4. Internet Matters is a YouTube channel that covers a range of topics like online dating, pornography, sexting, and safety tips for parents. Their online safety guide is both age-appropriate and has tips for adults to initiate these conversations. 
  5. Childline India and CyberBaap provide counselling services and training to address cyberbullying. 

Image credits: The YP Foundation

References: BBC, The Quint, Indian Express, Internet and Mobile Association of India, UNFPA India, Duhaime

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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.

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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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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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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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