Sensitise boys to gender equality early: Experts

As charity commences at home, so does gender equality, say experts while commenting on the increasing instance of violence against young women for rejecting advances and proposals from the opposite gender. They stress on the need to create gender awareness and equality at a young age.
Sensitise boys to gender equality early: Experts
Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, Founder of Sneha

Chennai

“KR Renuka, who runs The Centre for Women’s Development and Research (CWDR), has been organising gender awareness sessions for adolescent boys from the slum areas. “Many of the young boys have no idea how to interact with girls. In addition, there is nobody to guide them. When we conduct our sessions, many boys told us that they were unaware that eve-teasing was harmful. We have seen that the boys’ perception change. After our sessions, the mothers said that some of the boys have started helping in household chores and even raised their voice when the father beat up the mother. This awareness should be created in all school children at a young age,” she said. 
The activist added that cases of violence against women for rejection are on the rise. “Recently, we were involved in a case where the girl had said no to the advances and the boy had started beating her up in public. We wanted to file an FIR but the girl was worried that she would face more violence. We resorted to the leader of the community to intervene and settle the matter. Cases like these highlight the need for educating boys from their childhood on gender equality,” added Renuka. Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, psychiatrist, WHO Consultant and founder of Sneha, a suicide prevention helpline, said the patriarchal upbringing results in a sense of entitlement among the boys. “The way the boys are brought up, the family environment coupled with self-obsession leads to a sense of entitlement. The mass media and films too glorify this entitlement. If you look at our cinema, the stalker always gets the prize – which is the girl. 
No stalker, in cinema, gets rejected. The youngsters watching such films think that is the way to woo a girl. This has to change,” she said. There are different types of stalkers, said Lakshmi. “If a relationship sours and one person calls it off, the other feels unjustly treated. The idea is that they will do anything to make the other person suffer. 
Another type of stalker is someone who wants to become close to the person they like. Here, casual gestures are misinterpreted for signs of romance. A small percentage of stalkers have psychosis or other mental disorder. But the sense of entitlement is common,” she added. Dr M Thirunavukarasu, a renowned city-based psychiatrist, said there is a need for mental health education in schools. “Today, if a person experiences failures – be it in academics or relationships, they either harm themselves or show their frustration and aggression on others. They don’t accept the consequences of their actions. 
People should be trained at an early age to be able to handle their emotions, failures and successes. Our education system should change. Even in co-education schools, girls and boys are made to sit separately, unlike schools around the world. By doing this, the boys and girls are alienated. At home, too, the gender differences are evident in the way boys and girls are allowed to interact. The society must ensure that gender sensitivity begins at home and at an early age,” said the expert.

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