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Editorial

Dear All,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. I know it’s been a while since you heard from us, but do forgive us. This edition of the newsletter focuses on various aspects and ideas about gender and sexuality.

The current wave of changes in our society, and around the world, include conversations around breaking gender stereotypes. Many-a-times I have heard my own friends and companions make statements that are steeped in narrow ideas about the concept of gender. Often I have seen moralistic stands being taken on matters of sexuality, sexual rights and sexual choices of individuals. 

Through this newsletter, we hope to introduce you to the idea of gender being a social construct and not a biologically dictated one. As Daphna Joel presented through her study, there is no distinct male or female brain, but an intersex one. Write to us and we’d love to share some links to such studies with you. It is time to do away with the binding gender stereotypes as they affect ALL genders. These very stereotypes enable the perpetration of gender-based violence, hence, change is required and it starts with us educating ourselves about gender-based concepts. 

Our programmes also include an element on gender sensitization in the hope that if we start addressing gender disparities from a young age among children, we could encourage the building of a more balanced society in the future.

Let’s build a more equitable society, let's empower everyone. It is not a fight for a single gender, it is a fight for equal rights for everyone.

 

Ishita Manek
(Co-founder and Director)

The Super Person

The above picture is of the ‘Super-person’ activity. It is used with children in grades 2-4 to help them understand the concept of gender and gender equality. Since gender can be a difficult concept to explain to young audiences, we use such activities to keep their interest up and to get the message across.

Children at this age may start developing gender stereotypes by observing people around them, by phrases like ‘Don’t cry like a girl’, ‘All men are strong’ or, through toys and games which further inculcate societal norms for certain genders, such as, cars for boys and dolls for girls.

In this activity, we choose popular gender stereotypes such as pink for girls, short hair for boys etc. We put down such words, on a visible board, around the Super Person drawing and let children ideate on and guess the gender of the Super-person.

We have witnessed a number of varied responses to this activity from many children, coming from different backgrounds. Firstly, we noticed that some words are strongly associated with one gender or the other, indicating that the gender conditioning they may receive from their environment starts at a young age. Secondly, we also recognised that some children were well aware of the stereotypes and they themselves countered them by sharing their daily life examples such as ‘My father also cooks’, ‘My brother wears jewellery’, ‘Wonder Woman is as strong as Superman’ etc- indicating that they are able to see examples of gender equality. Though they might be getting overshadowed by the pervasive gender conditioning. Thirdly, while such young children may not understand concepts such as social conditioning and gender bias, they can understand that both genders deserve a chance to participate in any activities they like and their liking for it doesn’t need to be associated with their gender identity.

The idea behind doing the 'Super-Person' activity is to plant a seed that may slowly start opening children’s  minds to the concepts of rights and choices. We desire to gradually help children use this information to take bigger steps towards a more gender sensitised society.

Sexuality and Ancient Culture

Indian culture is enriched with liberal literature, architectural monuments, mythological stories, religious anecdotes and various art forms depicting sexuality. It was well known for its holistic approach which considers ‘Kama’, that is, sex and sexuality, as an integral part of human life. 

Kamasutra, an ancient piece of literary work, that views sexual intercourse as a science and an art form, is from India. As Rachel Souerbry has written in an article called ‘Views Of Sex, Sexuality, and Gender through Indian History’, sex was taught as a formal subject and Kamasutra is the world’s first treatise. The ancient text described sex as a private and mutual act. Intimacy was glorified in our ancient epics and literature, such as the famous love tale of King Nal and Damayanti, and the Ananga Ranga- a manual of sexual mannerism explained in poetic form. 

Nudity in art forms like paintings and sculptures was acceptable in the past few centuries. The various temples built in the 9th – 10th AD, such as Khajuraho Temple, depict love and lust in various forms,. Storyteller and writer, Lakshmi Sarath, came across stories that indicate that the sculptures at Khajuraho were intended to provide sex education.  

In today’s day and age, the focus seems to have shifted towards repressing sexual thoughts and conversations about sex and sexuality. As opposed to the liberal, revolutionary outlook of ancient Indian culture.
The current Indian society seems to have become more conservative in this respect- where one’s apparel can call for judgement about not only character, but all matters pertaining to sexuality. We, as a society tend to restrict an individual’s expression of sexuality. Even teachers in the urban or rural setup face difficulties in teaching students about reproductive organs and systems in a biology class. Most people assume that teenage children and young adults will figure it out one way or another and that they need not be educated about it.

If puberty, exploration of sexuality, information about changes happening within the body etc. are taboo topics, then how will young individuals ever gain information about themselves and their bodies? According to the 2011 census, only 21% of young adults receive sex education, more so when they are expected to start a family as soon as they can post an early marriage. We tend to forget that sexual exploration is an integral part of such partnerships and can add meaning and intimacy in a relationship.

A human being is a sexual being and sexuality is a part of a person’s personality. Sexuality is so much more than just the physical act of sexual intercourse. Teaching about sex and reproductive health from a young age helps children accept their own sexuality. Sexuality education is needed, to provide accurate knowledge to youth, to help them to make informed choices, and to form a balanced view towards one’s own, and others, expression of sexuality.  This knowledge can be empowering and can encourage them to become sensitive, respectful and open-minded about everyone’s choices and experiences.

We look forward to the possibility of changing the tides by working with children and youth to help them develop a healthier attitude towards all things sex and sexuality.
Copyright © 2019 Rubaroo Breaking Silences Foundation, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
18 Prem Baug, 1st floor,
Sir Bhalchandra Road, Matunga (central railway stn),
Near Colony Nursing Home, Mumbai- 400019

Contact us: info@rubarooindia.com

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Rubaroo · 218 Prem Baug, 1st floor, Sir Bhalchandra Road, Matunga (central railway stn), · Near Colony Nursing Home, Mumbai- 100019 · Mumbai 400019 · India

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