On Sunday night, it was revealed that one of the conversations shared as part of the Bois Locker Room group was between a girl and a boy. The girl- who assumed the alias of Siddharth – suggested in the chat a plan to sexually assault herself, the Delhi police said.
The Bois Locker Room – probably derived from President Donald Trump’s ‘locker room’ conversation talk – is the second highly publicised story involving affluent teenagers talking about sexually assaulting their female classmates. A few months ago, a leading IB School in Mumbai also suspended 14 students after a WhatsApp conversation that spoke of assaulting females went viral on social media.
While it’s easy for us to get into a ‘holier than thou’ mode and express shock at the way the boys have behaved, we need to take a few things into consideration.
The NCERT had, in 2017, spoken about the dangers of child abuse and had even incorporated it in its the syllabus at the time. An NCERT official was quoted saying that, ‘children are more conscious of their surrounding and taking care of themselves, but younger children are more vulnerable, so there is a need to explain this.’
More recently, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan introduced the ‘Health and Wellness curriculum’ and while sex education is an integral part of this, the word ‘sex’ isn’t used. According to a report in The Print, “The curriculum has been divided into 11 modules — growing up healthy; emotional well-being and mental health; interpersonal relationships; values and responsible citizenship; gender equality; nutrition, health and sanitation; promotion of healthy lifestyles; prevention and management of substance misuse; reproductive health and HIV prevention; safety and security against violence and injuries; and promotion of safe use of internet, media and social media.”
Interestingly, Harsh Vardhan’s 2014 mandate for sex education, according to an article in Scroll, emphasised values education – without further clarification – and yoga as suitable replacements for the sex education programs prescribed to Indian schools by the government.
While the NCERT and the health ministry have the syllabus in place, there are two fundamental issues here: One is, parents getting too embarrassed to talk to children about sex and the other is, actually implementing the syllabus. While having a discussion with some of my younger colleagues, one of them, who studied in an ICSE school and graduated in the batch of 2010 said that they never taught sex education in school. It was mainly a biology class where they explained the various reproductive organs. Another colleague, who studied in Dubai when he was in school, shared the same issue with the way sex education was taught.
When I was in school, which happened to be an all-boys school in Mumbai, we had one sex ed class that lasted three hours. While the initiative was wonderful, we had a couple of old Jesuit priests – bless their souls – who awkwardly explained the importance of birth control and contraception. At the end, we were shown a movie about two high school girls – one who was sexually active and one who wasn’t. The priests of course called the girl who was active ‘bad’ while the other one was ‘good’.
Since then, things have been pretty much the same for Indians living in India and even first-generation kids who have grown up in other countries. People my age make jokes of the awkwardness their parents had when a kissing scene would come on television. One online forum called ‘My Life Is Desi’ expressed the hilarity of growing up as a first-generation child in the United States. One particular post perfectly explains the Indian parent’s attitude towards discussing sex with their child. The post read: Once I was watching a movie with my father. The main characters started kissing. My father first reduced the television volume and then changed the channel #MyLifeIsDesi.
The funny thing is that most of the parents of teenage kids going to school at this age would be in their early to mid 40s. Which means that they were aged between 14 and 21 during India’s pop culture MTV revolution of the 90s; that period, many may argue, is the most impressionable age in an individual.
So, what does a parent and teacher discuss while talking about sex? For starters, they need to make the discussion a less awkward topic and this will begin if they get out of their comfort zones. We’re not asking them to go all Gillian Anderson in the Netflix show Sex Education, but there needs to be a point – more inclined towards Anderson’s character – a sex therapist who is also a single mother to a teenaged son – clubbed with a bit of tradition that both need to employed on tweens and teens. The process will take time to implement, but it’s a much-needed start that may stop Bois Locker Room-type chatrooms.