National

Time We Said ‘Yes’ To ‘No’

The widespread misconception about consent in India, robbing women of their bodily autonomy, distorting relationships and reinforcing gender biases, is a clarion call for the country to promote consent curriculum beginning with schools

Time We Said ‘Yes’ To ‘No’
info_icon

The word ‘consent’ is probably the most widely misunderstood word in India. Blame it on the lack of comprehensive sex education, starved of factual knowledge leading to uninformed children and young adults. A problem magnified since they grow up on a diet of fiction propagated by Bollywood movies, leading to distortions that essentially mould social attitudes and behaviour. For example, a woman’s ‘no’ is unwittingly mistaken for a coy expression of ‘yes’, mirroring the skewed representation of courtship in the films.

Indeed, in Bollywood’s romantic phantasmagoria a woman’s refusal is portrayed as an essential and often the most celebrated part of elaborate courtship dramas, a flirtatious prelude to a yes. With deficient education blurring the lines between reel and real life, such narratives have gained ground perilously and turned into widely held social beliefs. As a result, just like on the silver screen, many believe that aggressive courtship when persisted with results in the triumph of ‘true love’.

The acceptance of such narratives obfuscates the very essence of consent. Without a doubt, the prevalence of these misconceptions is at the root of gender-based violations, underscoring the need for schooling the young about sexual rights starting at the early stages of formal education as part of their curriculum.

Education can recondition minds and reshape patriarchal attitudes towards consent and a whole gamut of gender-related issues. It can help foster healthier and happier societies that cherish respect for boundaries and uphold a woman’s inalienable right over her body. Also, it can empower students to make informed choices about their relationships based on respect.

info_icon

Furthermore, well-structured and effectively imparted sex-education can avert sexual assaults by inculcating in the students a respect for boundaries and creating awareness of their legal rights. Textured holistically into subjects like social studies and moral science, age-appropriate sex education can begin right at the primary level, with basic lessons on personal boundaries and respect. As students graduate, the class curriculum can expand to include more complex topics like mutual consent, healthy relationships and sexual rights.

Needless to say, the success of such courses will rely critically on how they are conducted in the classroom, underscoring the need for teachers equipped to handle these sensitive subjects with care and accuracy. There are professional development programmes that can endow teachers with the skills they need to create an open and reassuring classroom environment that encourages students to voice their concerns, ask questions, listen, debate, discuss and understand. This process must engage parents as well to ensure that consent education does not remain confined to classrooms and is reinforced at home as well.

The consent curriculum developed by Durex in partnership with the Government of India in alignment with the National Curriculum Framework stands out as an exemplary initiative. This gender and age-neutral curriculum helps students understand consent with the aid of cartoons, podcasts and murals

To ensure its inclusiveness, the curriculum must cater to diverse experiences and perspectives from across the spectrum, including the LGBTQIA+ community. Such recognition and validation of varied experiences can engender a society that is not only inclusive but tolerant and accepting.

On another front, governments must work collaboratively to craft policies that mandate comprehensive sex education in schools. Also, they must recognise its importance and allocate resources accordingly. Public awareness campaigns designed to dispel myths and propagate the importance of consent education can significantly contribute to the success of these government efforts. Co-creating course structures and campaigns with stakeholders in the education and the private sectors can yield rich dividends.

In this context the consent curriculum developed by Durex in partnership with the Government of India in alignment with the National Curriculum Framework stands out as an exemplary initiative. This gender and age-neutral curriculum helps students understand consent with the aid of cartoons, podcasts and murals. To expand its reach and mainstream conversations around consent, Durex has rendered the keynotes of the curriculum into a Bollywood-style music video. Roping in film stars as advocates for consent boosts the impact of the message.

Integrating comprehensive consent education into school curricula can promote respect, empower individuals and pave the way to building a safer, healthier and more equitable society based on mutual respect. The ripple effects of such a step could contribute to curbing gender-based violence, promoting mental health and fostering a culture of mutual respect and equality. By giving sex education the attention it clearly deserves, India can empower its youth and usher in a future based on respect, equality and body autonomy.

Ravi Bhatnagar is Director, External Affairs & Partnerships, Reckitt, South of Asia - SOA

Tags

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement