Have you ever wondered why, despite some progress in gender equality, we as a society still hold regressive views towards anyone who is not a cis-het man? As we grow up, we are instilled with several negative notions about gender identity, the “appropriate” ways of performing gender, and rules about who we can love.
“Boys can’t wear make-up!”
“She was asking for harassment wearing that outfit!”
“I’m not homophobic, but don’t rub your love life in my face, yaar!”
But are these rules the only way to conduct life? Who set these rules? Whom does it serve when we collectively follow them? And why must we shun anyone who strays from them? Following these patriarchal views only strengthens the hate that develops for people from marginalized communities. There is an increasing need to destroy the illusion that there is only one acceptable way to be.
Unfortunately, unless addressed actively, views that we imbibe over time can be challenging to overcome. Throughout our lives, we tend to not only accept but also perpetuate these beliefs. We need a drastic mindset shift in our society, and this can be done through gender sensitization.
According to SheThePeople.com, “gender sensitization is a basic requirement to understand the sensitive needs of a particular gender. It helps us to examine our attitudes and beliefs and question the ‘realities’ that we thought we know”. It is an awareness that cultivates a sensitivity to create a more inclusive and safe space for all. One can be sensitized through self-education, workshops, art, and more!
Gender sensitivity can help root out negative attitudes about gender and sexuality; it helps us de-condition ourselves to make way for more progressive values. Indeed, it is also a long process – it can take weeks, months, or even years to unlearn some beliefs truly! But it is the only way for a society to collectively and genuinely advocate for gender equality.
We still have a long way to go – although the law mandates gender sensitization workshops in any workplace or educational institution, not everyone takes it seriously. They are still viewed as an accessory rather than a crucial stepping stone towards a discrimination-free, inclusive organization.
In a world preoccupied with assigning the onus of safety to survivors and marginalized groups, an effective gender sensitization session should raise awareness among everyone. It should target all co-occupants and highlight their role in ensuring that any space they inhabit is free from violence, discrimination, and harassment.
Durga India is an organization that works in the field of gender equity and safety against sexual harassment. They have several initiatives that create a safer world and help us understand cues to protect ourselves in any given situation. One such program is their Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) Engagement program.
They helped install panic alarms in over 150 BMTC buses through their program, but they did not stop there. As they worked towards the safety of commuters, they also engaged service providers like BMTC staff, bus drivers, and conductors as part of their sensitization program. The program recognizes that this staff would be the first to intervene in a crisis and that the responsibility of a safe space does not lie solely on the passenger. The workshop attendees emerge as active bystanders, well-equipped with the knowledge of appropriate conduct and safety protocols.
At Jhatkaa.org, we appreciate this holistic approach to gender sensitization and support Durga India by supplying our Right the Wrong toolkit to complement their workshops. This toolkit aims to democratize access to legal information about sexual harassment and domestic violence, recognizing that an in-depth understanding or even access to this information is a privilege not enjoyed by all. From a basic introduction about behaviors that constitute harassment to a detailed explanation of the steps survivors can follow to access legal aid, this toolkit is a valuable reference for anyone looking for a simplified yet comprehensive explanation of the law.
Our partnership with Durga India is only the beginning – we are constantly looking to expand our reach and help more people access the toolkit and Durga’s insightful workshops. Help us amplify our Right the Wrong toolkit and continue our gender sensitization work by making a small donation.