We want a gender-equal society, but are our kids learning gender-free?

(We divide our children into male and female boxes but what if a child doesn’t fit in this box)

Let me explain to you the current condition of most conventional schools in India and how children affecting:- 

Separate school for boys and girls

The Indian school system is divided into three parts- Primary school, middle school, and high school. Primary and middle school is made for both genders to study together. But after high school, children get divided into males and females. 

Separate sitting arrangement

Even in primary and middle school, children have to wear highly gendered uniforms. Because boys have to wear a shirt and pants but girls have to wear a falling skirt and shirt. Falling skirts become a barrier for girls to climb trees, perform in sports, and so on. 

Gendered learning material

Our book talks about boys and girls. The old gender-based stereotype reflects in the book and has not been updated. For example, books show that a girl is made for cooking food.  

Our book talks only about boys and girls. 

These three areas are impacting children in becoming gender-stereotyped. But there are many more effects- gender-based toilets, a gender-based language, the culture of boys being strong and girls being shy and caring also affecting children. 

These practices affect boys and girls but what about those children who are not able to confirm their gender? What happens to those children who are told to behave like boys but the child feels like a girl and vice versa? In India, we have millions of schools for boys and girls but there is no school for children who are experiencing gender dysphoria. Then what happens with these children? Here is the story of Gulshan who was 8 years old when her father caught her using her mom’s lipstick. In grade 9, she was studying in a boy’s school, where she was locked in the toilet by her peers to check her private parts—to ascertain whether she was a boy or a girl. After that, she never used the toilet of the school (Hindustan Times, 2018). There are many children like Gulshan who get harassed in gendered schools and thereby drop out of school. Some of them get murdered by their family members like Dakshyani (a 17 years old trans girl murdered by her brother in Chennai in Aug 2021).

According to the census conducted by the Government of India in 2011, the number of trans people in India is 4.9 lakhs, and those aged 0-6 are 56,000 (Census, 2011). Now we don’t know where these children who must be aged 10 to 16 are. The National Human Rights Commission has stated that the rights of transgender people are “largely compromised” and that they experience a sense of isolation within households, communities, and institutions, amid rampant societal gender discrimination (Kerala Development Society, 2017). Access to free school education is a fundamental right of every child under the age of 0 to 14 in India according to the Right to Education Act 2009-10 (Education Department of India, 2010). But those who experience gender dysphoria or are nonconforming don’t find an inclusive space in schools. 

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