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Gender training sessions for the students of Higher Secondary classes in Kerala, India

Action Plan of Asian Youth Academy 2015

Anna Rony

In an effort to realize the action plan of Asian Youth Academy 2015, me, Anna Rony has taken up gender training sessions with the students of Higher Secondary classes in two schools of Kerala.

On 9th January 2016, Gender Training session was conducted for 70 students of Government Higher Secondary School, Panamattam of Kottayam District of Kerala. On 12th January 2016, Gender Training session was conducted for 70 students of Kendra Navodaya Vidhyala Vadavathur of Kottayam District of Kerala .The context of the interactive programme was based on the Juvenile Justice Act of India which is going to be amended in the near future.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 is the primary legal framework for juvenile justice in India. The act provides for a special approach towards the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency and provides a framework for the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children in the purview of the juvenile justice system. This law, brought in compliance of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), repealed the earlier Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 after India signed and ratified the UNCRC in 1992. This act has been further amended in 2006 and 2010. In the wake of Delhi gang rape (16 Dec, 2012), the law suffered a nationwide criticism owing to its helplessness against crimes where juveniles get involved in heinous crimes like rape and murder. In 2015, responding to the public sentiment, both the houses of parliament in India further amended the bill that lowered the juvenile age to 16 and proposed adult-like treatment for juveniles accused of heinous crimes. The lower house, i.e. Lok Sabha passed the bill on May 7, 2015 and the upper house, i.e. Rajya Sabha on December 22, 2015. The bill currently awaits the President’s approval.

In this context, our Team including Dr. Kochurani Abraham(Feminist theologian), Prof.Thankachan (HOD of RIT college)Ms.Mini Philp ( State Secretary of Women Security Committee) , Sr. Mary MMS (Advocate) and Ms Anna Rony (AYA alumini) organised three hour interactive sessions among the students of the age group 17-18 years since they become the group who would be directly affected by the Juvenile Justice Bill amendment and who are in greater need for guidance on issues related to gender and sexuality.

Highlights of the programme

  • The discussuions started by checking the general awareness of students on this Juvenile Justice Act and hearing their opinions about it. Most of them had a good understanding about what the laws are, why they are made for and why is it relevant for the current situation of India to reduce sexual violence and other atrocities around the society. Even though the awareness of what is right and what is wrong is rooted in the students, they find it difficult to move smoothly in their journey towards life.
  • There was a discussion for the reasons behind the sexual violence and criminal actions among students. The Students came to a point that both women and men are equally responsible for the protection of each one’s life, rights, chances and opportunities.
  • The relevance of the need of amendment of Juvenile Justice Act was discussed and the students expressed diverse opinions. There were students favouring the amendment as well as some disapproving the amendment. The valid points helped to build a better understanding of laws and the thought “Prevention is better than Cure” to avoid criminal actions and face legal procedures.
  • The influence of media that has started to penetrate deeply into our lifestyles and attitude, and more importantly to social behaviour was acknowledged, so it was pointed out that it is an individual’s responsibility to choose what is right for one’s and other’s growth.
  • Some students questioned why Kerala society still looks down on boys who speak openly to girls in public. This gossiping nature of society seems to be so immature in the eyes of the students rather they want to develop healthy relationships between boys and girls in a manner that facilitates their mutual growth.
  • The discrimination against girls in having equal opportunities with boys still exists in the families of most of the students who participated and they find it   an obstacle for realising their dreams and achieving growth. The restriction on girl’s mobility in Kerala society under the guise of girl’s safety that insists that girls get back home after 6.30 pm was questioned.   They ask when our society will change so that both men and women can walk freely and safely in the streets of our villages.
  • It was observed that the reasons behind a criminal offence can be due to peer pressure, influence of media, poverty in family, use of drugs, alcohol etc. So the students were asking that even if one is punished according to Juvenile Justice Act and he/she comes back to the same society there is a chance of repeating the same mistakes. So they need alternative programmes during their life in Juvenile homes so that they are better equipped with values and skills for facing life constructively. Otherwise the proposes amendment of the Juvenile Justice Bill will serve no purpose
  • The false notions about rape that it depends on women’s dressing, going in night time etc were deconstructed beautifully by clarifying their doubts and opinions.
  • Examples of great women and men were presented as role models for students in view of motivating them. During the discussions the students shared their role models as their mother, father, teachers and other personalities depending on the virtues they see in each of them. It was pointed out that it is important to have proper values system for one to grow and the values are the same in the past, present and in the future.

The session concluded with beautiful song that invited the students to live as a blessing.

“LIVE LIVE LIVE as a blessing,

A Blessing of love,

A Blessing of justice

Love will increase

A Blessing of peace

“What is a blessing?

According to John O’Donohue, a blessing is a “circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen .It is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart. When a blessing is invoked, a window opens in eternal time.”

In conclusion, as Holistic Human Development is one of the important aims of the Asian Youth Academy, I want to empower the young minds of the present generation, so that they may grow up with clearer notions of gender equality and contribute to the building of a healthy society.