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Sexual Violence and Sexuality Education – The Missing Link: Ketaki Chowkhani

December 25, 2012

Guest post by KETAKI CHOWKHANI

Over the last few days there seems to be sudden explosion in talking about sexual violence and other forms of violence on women. A huge discourse is being created around what rape cultures are and how we are part of these cultures which produce and construct these very acts of violence. Sexual violence has been linked to sexist, misogynist attitudes, remarks and behaviour, and ranging from scriptural affirmations to popular songs. The rape cultures are discussed as existing within the spaces of homes, streets, offices, courts, police stations, public transport, universities and so on.

This questioning of rape cultures has lead to various demands from individuals and women’s groups. Among them are demands for gender sensitisation of all personnel employed and engaged by the State in its various institutions, including the police and for gender equality to be made an essential part of the school curriculum, to be drawn up in national consultation with women’s movement activists in the field, the aim being to challenge misogyny, patriarchal attitudes, and hostility to women’s freedom and rights. Though I do not contest these demands, I would like to add to the discussion by pointing to a ‘blind spot’ which needs to be looked into when thinking about rape and sexual violence. We might be talking about gender sensitivity drives and gender equality drives within the school curriculum, but one needs to also ask about other spaces of talking about sexuality within the curriculum: within sexuality education. On this regard one needs to ask ourselves:

What is connection between the present resistance by government bodies, schools, parents and right wing parties to sexuality education and sexual violence and the production of rape cultures? What is the connection between this systematic denial of right to knowledge about our own bodies and sexual violence and rape?

Why is sexuality education being resisted and banned by the State, school authorities, parents, right wing parties? Why is there a systematic denial of right to knowledge about our own bodies? Why are principals, teachers and parents so afraid of talking about sex, relationships, bodies and pleasure to children and adolescents? Why is there a systematic silencing of information about sex and sexuality when it comes to children and adolescents? How does this silencing contribute to ignorance, sexism, misogyny, gender discrimination and patriarchal attitudes present in school and college spaces? How does this sexism contribute to the formation of rape cultures?

It is time we think of sexuality education not just as a matter of reproductive health but as an effective means of countering these very rape cultures entrenched in patriarchy. It is time we see the denial of sexuality education as a means of spreading more deeply patriarchal attitudes and being intrinsically inimical to women’s rights.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Shrikant permalink
    December 25, 2012 9:05 PM

    The last few questions definitely deserve appreciable attention. They are about ‘contributions’ of this ‘blind spot’, its role. Still, the argument looks vague. Rather, there’s no argument but only questions with curiosity. The article still remains open to the stand: “awareness and education hardly decrease number of rape cases”.

    Can you please corroborate? Perhaps, a positive correlation seen in ‘sexually aware’ class/ society/ country with its rape statistics will help. In order to say “link is missing”, one must establish that a link practically exists and has shown results!

    • Ketaki permalink
      December 26, 2012 2:30 PM

      Shrikant, I am not making any well structured detailed arguement in this short post. I am actually only raising what I think to be important questions and adding to the ongoing debate.
      The article is not pointing to the simplistic fact that education and awareness lead to less rapes. The education/awareness as panacea for all is a problematic stance.
      Rather what I am saying is that the very denial of sexuality education and the resistance to talking about sexuality produces discrimination. Sexuality education is not about being ‘sexually aware’, and there is really no ‘sexually aware’ class/society/country for that matter.
      Why are people so afraid of talking about sex to children and adolescents? The argument they make is that the adolescents will get promiscuous and ‘spoil Indian culture’. Who are we afraid will get promiscuous? Women of course. Why is this dangerous? Because we want to control female sexuality. One of the the root anxieties of access to sexuality education is this very patriarchal and mysoginist notion.
      ‘Sexually aware’ countries that you might have in mind like the US also have abstinence-only till marriage sexuality education programmes. They betray the same patriarchal notions of virginity, monogamy, regulation of sexuality, homophobia etc.
      A comprehensive sexuality education will counter these patriarchal notions.
      The link that I am referring to is that betwen the denial of sexuality education and patriarchy, gender discrimination and sexual violence. Asserting the right to sexuality education is to question this very patriarchy and turn it on its head and rupturing the consensus and silence of cultures that produce these rapes.

      • Shrikant permalink
        December 26, 2012 11:28 PM

        I second this, very aptly put!

        I am only little worried when you say, “Why are people so afraid of talking about sex to children and adolescents? The argument they make is that the adolescents will get promiscuous and ‘spoil Indian culture’. Who are we afraid will get promiscuous? Women of course.” … a very strong stand, somewhat unsupported. It is possible that patriarchy and gender discrimination find very close link with denial of sexuality education. BUT, of course not the ONLY reason and ONLY link! It might be, in my not so humble opinion, pertinent to understand the psychology and individual stand before ‘finalizing’ reasons. I don’t think that one should rely on or counter-act the only audible argument “The argument they make is that….” when we’re talking about unseen, unspoken things. Consider man to man conversations or men-only cultures, spaces in society for that matter. Sexuality ‘education’ is not ‘welcomed’.
        While the link to education is simplistic, the ‘obvious and only’ link to patriarchy is also little on that way.

        Btw, nice article! It is best to bring the issue of sexuality education in these discussions, Kudos! May we achieve a better, inclusive and aware platform for open and scholarly dialogue!

  2. Parash permalink
    December 26, 2012 2:19 AM

    I really appreciate your view-point about the blind spot. Your questions are very relevant and I hope people will think about them deeply and open themselves up see the need for sexuality education. Its a very good start to a greater dialogue and reflection on this subject.

  3. Swati permalink
    December 26, 2012 7:53 AM

    Now is the time….It’s actually high time to push this forward. If they cannot appreciate the value of introducing sexuality education now, they never will….

  4. asha permalink
    December 28, 2012 8:01 PM

    a very important point made. am trying to write an honest personal viewpoint. will more of us do it?

Trackbacks

  1. How Delhi police assaulted my daughter on 25 December: Usha Saxena « Kafila
  2. How the God of Death Changed His Mind: Images from the Protest Against Rape at Jantar Mantar « Kafila

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