Ask a girl of this generation if she’s been called one of those frightful, derogatory terms. With revulsion in her eyes and aversion in her thought, she’ll reply, “Yes.” What a shame! Who knew the sheer sense of triumph and hope that we collectively felt after justice was served for Nirbhaya would only last so long?
4th May 2020 wrecked the hopes of so many individuals who believed that the punishment for sexual harassment made men learn their lesson. Screenshots of vulgar chats on a group called “Bois Locker Room” flooded the internet within hours and revealed not only 30+ members of the group but also the lewd and obscene comments they made about underage girls’, circulating their photos while objectifying and sexualizing their bodies, which is a punishable offence according to Section 66A and 67A of the Indian constitution.
We know that peer pressure can play a vital role in moulding a child’s character and often tends to steer them in the wrong direction, which, if unchecked, can lead to heinous cases like these. However, the problem does not lie in the fact that someone objectified someone else’s body or was forced to do so. The problem lies in the fact that so many boys like those in that group think of their comments as innocuous remarks rather than a crime. It lies in the very archaic foundation of this society, which enables such conduct by not working on solving it. A bully won’t stop charging if it’s constantly provoked.
What’s become apparent is the complete absence of moral and sex education in our country. Morals, as described by schools, are just respecting teachers, respecting elders, and saying Namaste. We don’t question most of the odious statements made, letting them slide as innocuous remarks.
We don’t provide sex education, and so students end up blurring the line between friendly banter and a criminal act. Like Math, Science, and English, moral education should also be a compulsory subject similar to the Japanese model, which ‘aims to develop a Japanese citizen who will never lose the consistent spirit of respect for his fellow man.’
What starts with a sexist attitude, locker room banter turns into unsolicited, non-consensual pictures and eventually into victim-blaming, molestation and rape. Before it does, we should attack the root of the problem, for which we need therapy and counselling.
As stigmatized as it is, psychotherapy is the need of the hour. Schools and other educational institutions need to come forward and identify children who need help. They need to have trained psychologists on campus. Parents need to come forward and take their children for therapy if they need it. After all, as American psychologist, Abraham Maslow said, “We may define therapy as a search for value.”
Finally, since the Information Technology Act 2000, which deals with cyber laws in India, was passed, it has hardly been talked about. Apart from parents researching online and educating their children in this regard, schools need to come forward yet again and teach students how to recognize and report their friends who use illegal and dangerous terms like the ones used by boys in that repulsive group chat.
This article cannot be complete without the mention of peers as bystanders who watch such incidents and don’t act. You may think you know someone so well and that they cannot do anything wrongful, but in reality, you don’t. Bystanders are equally as guilty for being silent.
Such serious predicaments cannot only be solved with sex education or learning about cyber laws. For an effective result, everything needs to go hand in hand. As James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced”. How many more incidents do we need? It’s time to change.