Q: What do school skirts, chowmein and mobiles phones have in common?
A: They have both been publicly cited as causes of rape by elected leaders in India.
Since the widely reported gang rape in Delhi in December 2012, rape and women’s issues have come slightly more centre stage in India. Sadly, recently several especially brutal cases have been reported widely, both in India and abroad, and it’s a topic we address regularly with our students. Additionally, there has been a large number of articles in the Indian and international press all reporting on politicians giving implausible reasons for why rape happens in India, not to mention the Madhya Pradesh minister who stated a couple of weeks ago that rape is “sometimes right, sometimes wrong”.
We thought it was time to address some of these with our 10th standard class–sixteen wonderful girls who have been with us for one year.
First all all, girls were instructed to open their emails where there was an email from me with an attachment–a presentation of 13 different ridiculous quotes from public figures about rape. Here are a couple of examples:
Girls clicked through their slides quietly whilst I moved about the room, wondering what they would make of these statements. To put things in context, a significant portion of the narrative around rape in India involves assigning blame to women on the basis of their clothes and behaviours (including, using mobile phones). Therefore, would the 10th standard class simply accept all the statements as the wise words of an older person? It didn’t take long for me to find out. After a few minutes, squeals of outrage, cries of “what!”, and girls turning to each other in horror told me just what they think of these measures to stop rape.
After taking some time to read, check vocabulary, clarify meanings and discuss fallacies about rape, girls had to do a little reflection and deconstruction of these statements. They selected their most-disliked statements (and there was quite a lot of competition for certain statements, like this one) , and spent almost an hour working in a shared google doc. The girls worked their way through these questions:
…and here are some of their responses.
Afterwards, girls had time to read through each other’s work and comment on it….
Shared here is just a small fraction of what the girls wrote. I’m very impressed with the way that they were able to channel their initial outrage and indignation at these statements into thoughtful, logical deconstructions. I feel confident about an India that includes young women such as these!