Can we go beyond tired platitudes and initiate a new nation-wide inclusive campaign, asks Lt. Col. A Sekhar, Head of Schools, Alpha Education.
Type #metoo for Google search and you get a mind boggling 300 crore plus results...
Type #metooIndia, and you get an equally mind boggling 192 crore plus results... and growing...
I spent two wonderful days at the Bangalore literature fest over the weekend. Beyond the literary superstars such as Dr Ramachandra Guha and Dr Shashi Tharoor, the extraordinary buzz and energy generated by the #MeToo discussions has to be felt and sensed to be believed. “We have suffered long enough, it is about time that these predators are called out" - is the unmistakable and welcome understanding one gets talking to people, reading deeply personal accounts of survivors and the general media narrative.
Yet, as the Scroll.in points out, Suhel Seth, man about town and image manager for some of India's most iconic brands and companies, is still relatively unscathed. Political parties and their spokespersons, ready with reactions and responses, 24x7, have been running away faster than the speed of light from commenting on the #MeToo exposes. That, in itself, tells you of a deeper, more sinister story, which, it is safe to say, will take a while to be told.
We have also seen a slow, but steady trickle of stories about sexual harassment in the education field; Symbiosis and TISS being prominent examples in the higher education space. Some heart-breaking stories have been shared by former school students about their teachers, principals, and owner/managers. Yet, it is safe to state that we have not even come close to the tip of the iceberg.
The worst is yet to come...
The most credible of studies on the subject from more evolved societies note that sexual harassment is 'rife in schools' and yet go unreported. In India, where gender sensitivities and biases are still intolerably high, female harassment of all kinds is a way of life for the vast majority of women. Author and journalist Tavleen Singh, in a recent article, wrote
" More than a hundred Indian women get raped every day, four out of 10 are children, and 94 per cent of the perpetrators are relatives."
The K-12 school system, with over 16 lakh schools of various hues, has to do much, much more to make schools safer for children, male and female beyond compliance, committees, and reports. We have a long, long way to go.
It is important that we also focus on the unintentional collateral damage some of us will have to endure. Forget the Tiger, the most threatened species in India is the male principal. In an environment where over 80 percent of the teachers are female, the male school leader is much more susceptible to smears, whisper campaigns and anonymous letters. Trust me, I am speaking from personal experience. Thus, it is important to follow due process and diligence irrespective of the nature and the gravity of the offence committed. School managements are now increasingly opting to avoid selecting male teachers to be on the "safer" side; which is unfortunate and regressive.
The way forward...?
In a patriarchal and privileged society as ours, with half of our population below the age of 25, sexual liberation has created new complex questions of consent and inappropriate behaviour. The nation, as one, has to confront this problem head on, eschewing squeamishness.
This video by President Obama and his team is powerful and stark...because one is too many...
“In all societies, both women and men are powerfully conditioned to repress the daily realities of (sexual harassment and workplace glass ceilings) and to collude with the rest of society in keeping these dimensions of shared experiences hidden.”
― William Keepin, Divine Duality: The Power of Reconciliation Between Women and Men
Can we go beyond tired platitudes and initiate a new nation-wide inclusive campaign?
It’s about time.
About the Author:
The author, Lt. Col. A Sekhar is Director & Head of Schools at Alpha Group of Institutions.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of ScooNews.
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