Sexual harassment has always been a problem in schools, but it has only recently received the attention it deserves. Some have argued that this level of attention is an exaggeration of typical adolescent behaviour, although sexual harassment can cause considerable psychological harm to young people.
Too few young people are taught how to create and maintain a healthy, respectful romantic or sexual connection, as well as how to avoid sexually assaulting or harassing another person, whether at school or at home.
Sexual Harassment in Schools
The term ‘schools’ does not only include classrooms or the school premises. It also includes school activities such as extra-curricular activities, sports, arts, cultural activities, school events and functions, field or school trips, picnics, and tutoring.
Sexual harassment in schools may also take the form of school rituals or practices, such as when welcoming new students or players in sports teams, or new members who join fraternities and clubs.
Students are being harassed sexually in online school spaces as well. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic schools and colleges shifted online and as such technology, including e-mail, blogs, social networking sites, chat rooms, dating websites, and text messaging features, provides new possibilities for sexual harassment.
Bullying and Harassment based on Gender
Gender-based harassment is a type of sexual harassment in which a pre-determined sex role is used as an instrument of gender policing to impose conformity.
Gender-based harassment can be especially harmful to adolescent kids who are trying to figure out who they are and how to fit in. Gender-based harassment is more likely to affect students who are viewed as not conforming to stereotyped gender norms.
In schools, gender-based harassment is frequently utilised as a form of bullying. Students may utilise sexual information to achieve power and influence over others.
Name-calling, jokes, and actions that are sexist or homophobic can be used to intimidate and shun a person. Gender-based harassment can sometimes be mistaken for sexual orientation harassment or homophobic bullying.
Steps to prevent Sexual Harassment in Schools
A holistic approach to sex-ed
An ethical approach toward sex education must be developed. Emphasize the importance of teaching pupils how to care for and support one another. This lowers their chances of committing or being a victim of sexual violence.
Encourage kids to think about why ideas like consent are important rather than just telling them how to ask for it. It's not just about getting out of trouble with the law; it's also about treating others with respect and compassion.
Early exposure to preventing gender bias
Parents may pave the way toward parity long before their children establish romantic relationships, start college, or enter workplaces by talking about gender prejudices early.
Despite progress toward gender equality, engrained biases against men and women persist with serious implications.
Explain to students the importance of attentive listening and respecting the choices of all genders as a matter of standard decency. Both parents and teachers must encourage students that they develop empathy.
Understanding consent at an early age
Consent must be learned at an early age. Consent is the notion that a person should respect another’s boundaries, in order to feel and be safe, preserve integrity and dignity, and develop healthy relationships.
Emotional intelligence, taking different perspectives into consideration, and empathy allows a person to understand their and another person’s feelings and are foundational to consent.
Measures that can be taken by Schools
Education providers should conduct regular checks to ensure that their surroundings are free of sexual harassment. Taking steps to maintain a safe and secure environment will aid in preventing sexual harassment from taking root and growing.
Demonstrating a strong belief that sexual and gender-based harassment will not be tolerated,
Displaying a strong stance against discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation,
Establishing an effective anti-sexual and gender-based harassment policy and ensuring that all students are aware of it,
Communicating the repercussions of all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment to the student body, including online sexual and gender-based harassment, and
using role-playing and educational exercises to teach students and staff about sexual harassment, including gender-based harassment, gender stereotyping, and homophobic statements.
Plea filed in Supreme Court for guidelines to prevent sexual harassment of students at schools
Supreme Court has sought a response from the Union and States on a plea filed for guidelines to prevent sexual harassment of students at schools/educational institutions.
Nakkheeran Gopal, Editor, Publisher, and Printer of Nakkheeran Tamil Bi-Weekly, a Tamil Investigative Journal filed the plea.
The petitioner has argued that students have the right to study in an environment where they feel safe and are free from any physical or emotional abuse/harassment.
Petitioner further argued that the right to dignity of children provided under Article 21 is compromised when they are exposed to predators.
An increase in the time that the children spend online can also lead to their online and offline grooming and lead to further exploitation.
Therefore, according to the petitioner, the State Governments have a vicarious liability to implement a law or issue guidelines for the protection of children.
Teachers, counsellors, and administrators can all assist students. Because of its demeaning nature, students are typically embarrassed to report sexual harassment. They must understand that the harassment is not their fault or a reflection of themselves. They must continue to seek assistance until the harassment ends. It is in everyone’s best interests for kids to seek help: unresolved confrontations can emotionally harm the victim and harden the perpetrator’s conscience.