The majority of us have seen our teachers skipping basic biology lessons including reproduction, male-female genetics, etc. because these were topics we could just fast forward and learn by ourselves. How are we supposed to do that when there is nobody to guide us? Basic sex education has been denied to children in schools and at home. Sex includes a complex variety of subjects that needs to be taught at a very young age. But Indian culture has labeled sex education a taboo and topic that should remain untouched and a virgin.
Why does our culture refuse to acknowledge and speak about the basic human biology that we are all a part of? What is it about the word sex that instigates rage among elders and parents? The roots of inequality between a man and a woman can be seen widely in our society. From the time a boy is ‘punished’ by being asked to sit next to a girl, a girl being asked not to dress ‘provocatively’ in front of a boy, are all merely slight instances of cultivating wrong ideas into the minds of kids who would grow up misguided. They grow up into young adults with curiosity, accessing wrong information from friends and the internet, and become ignorant of so many details like gender diversity, consent, pleasure, sexual health. These give rise to sexual abuses, STDs, homophobia, and more.
In India, every day an average of 88 people get raped. But these statistics don’t even include kids. Why are all these men, women, and kids facing such abuse? It is because of the barrier that our culture has set between different genders that limits male-female communication, access to full sex education explaining what is right and what is wrong, which is the reason for the shaping of an inhuman mindset. Men grow up thinking they are above women and have complete authority over their bodies. Premarital sex is silently being oppressed by every community in India. Therefore, young couples are not aware of the safety precautions that they should know before entering into sexual intercourse.
At present more than a quarter of young adults engage in premarital sex out of which one-third are not aware of the risks of unprotected sex. This is also extensively seen among female sex workers, who are open to the risk of having contracted STDs like HIV because either the male is not willing to use the protection or because the female is not aware of it.
Many schemes have been introduced to implement sex education as part of the curriculum in India recently. But these will need a long time before actually coming into effect. This is due to the communal and patriarchal mindsets of people that refuse to change. We need to encourage the practice of using protection like condoms in both males and females. At present, around 2.1 million Indians are HIV positive. Schools and other institutions need to conduct regular sexual health awareness programs for teenagers and adults if we want the number to decrease.
We should educate kids from childhood about their body and the way it thinks and react. It is at home where the basic education starts. The little things that we change at home can be a big impact. Treating your kids equally and talking to them and answering their doubts instead of asking them to stop asking ‘inappropriate’ questions will help them understand the changes that they are going to go through with age.
Your culture and your beliefs should never stand in the way of equality and awareness. If it does, it is time to change your beliefs.
The good thing about being a millennial child is that we experienced a time before technology and a time after technology conquered our lives. Still, it seems forever ago we were having a wholehearted conversation with our parents or a fun game of hiding and seek with our siblings.
The dynamics of human-society interaction have changed widely and artificial intelligence is a big part of this change. They analyze and store information about our needs using big data and keep facilitating and simplifying our lives until needs are becoming wants and capitalists can earn millions and dominate us.
Right now everything is online. From birthday wishes, anniversary celebrations to funerals. The pandemic has played a major role in this radical change. Nobody has to leave the house; nobody has to waste a breath. There is no need for any sort of touch and feel communication anymore. You are one click away from getting that digital marketing course you wanted to take, or that MBA degree you wanted to pursue. The need for movement, effort, or the basic necessity of applying your brain to solving a math problem is eliminated by technology. We have got Artificial Intelligence doing all these things for us.
But technology has become counterproductive and has contributed to reduced cognitive abilities in human beings and increased the time spent on digital gadgets. This has caused a rise in mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and suicide.
A child growing in a technological era spends their average time online, which eventually erodes the brain and affects their creative thinking abilities. Also, validation from social media has become an important factor in today’s lifestyle. People are so addicted to this image everybody creates for themselves in social media that anybody who fails to accomplish themselves as successful online start developing low self-esteem and face criticism. There is a push to be productive all the time, which takes a toll on your emotional health.
The invention of new technology and improvised machine language will deteriorate the differences between a human and a machine. It is no more a medium of assistance for human beings. The machine and its creators are able to read our minds and manipulate our emotions and decide whether we should have social engagements or not. This problem cannot be solved by technology.
A good example of this is the invention of electronic books. It has depreciated the traditional library and live experience of reading. Reading habits are so important to sharpen our minds. Staring at the screen causes strain and damages the eyes. This will reduce the time people spend on reading. A library is also a place for people with similar minds to gather and discuss their thoughts and interact.
Similarly, there are innovative technologies that help you walk without actually walking, ready for you, talk to you so that you don’t need actual human interaction, write homework for you, and what else. All these innovations have made us lazy, less hard-working, and unhealthy.
Humans are social animals and technology is creating a barrier between basic human-nature interaction. It has built a new world for us to live in but that will only rise to replace the existing world. The children growing up are accustomed to meeting the needs of these technological benchmarks and are given education on this basis. There is no room for artists or writers or revolutionaries in the future.
They need people to build and learn the language of software that eventually is going to be the reason for endangering our lives. We have stopped evolving and our brains have stopped imagining. We are turning into machines, while the machines are learning how to be humans.
Rights of the Divyangjan
In 2015, the Prime Minister in his Mann Ki Baat program stated that the word Divyang should be used to refer to the disabled. The word originally means “one with a divine body” and is to be used in all formal settings to refer to persons with disabilities (PWD).
It was supposed to replace other derogatory and insensitive words in the Indian vernacular which were used to refer to PWD. The Divyangjan are entitled to numerous rights as stated by the Indian state. However, not many know of these rights. The following discusses, in brief, some major rights of the divyangjan.
Persons with disabilities are accorded all the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen – the right to freedom, right to equality, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, and cultural and educational rights. Article 15 of the Indian constitution prohibits the discrimination of PWD. Such discrimination is punishable in the eyes of law. Article 29 ensures that the disabled are not denied education and Article 45 guarantees their education.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 1995
The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full Participation) Act, 1995 is significant because this was one of the first acts to start a discourse on the rights of the divyangjan.
The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 makes way for the divyangjan to become independent and self-sufficient.
The Act provides for equal and unhindered job opportunities for the disabled, ensures and strengthens their fundamental rights, and offers relief in case they are not able to earn for themselves. It grants aid, reservations, and other affirmative action in favor of the PWD so that they can participate in society. The Act, in this way, makes way for the divyangjan to become independent and self-sufficient.
In case the rights of the PWD are violated, then they can approach the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in the Centre or the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in the State for grievance redressal.
MENTAL HEALTH ACTS
Apart from the right to life and personal liberty that is ensured by Article 21 of the Indian constitution, there are several other acts and provisions that ensure the health and safety of PWD.
Not all legal provisions for PWD are properly utilized
Unfortunately, not all of these provisions are well known or properly utilized. Though they exist, they fail to reach the layman and are completely foreign to the already underprivileged.
India has the 2nd largest population with 1.3 billion people, making about 17.7% of the total world population. With the incline in the population of our country the crisis related to basic resources also increased.
One of the major resource crises that India had faced in its past was the Groundwater Crisis. Groundwater was and still is an important resource because of its use in irrigation and many other purposes. But due to negligence, it was overexploited leading to a rapid fall in the water table. Thereby a need arose to consider its importance and find a way to replenish it.
Regulations in the 19th Century
The first regulation for the conservation and replenishment of the groundwater table came in the 19th century. Under this regulation, the judges decided to give the landowners full rights of the water that was found under their land.
This regulation led to major problems as the landowners started considering groundwater as their property and did not consider the need to protect it as well as replenish it thereby further deteriorating the condition of the water table.
Groundwater was also started to be considered as a symbol of power as well as economic gain. With the rise in the use of mechanical pumps, landowners started selling water to people considering a public resource to be their private property.
Modification in the 1970s
The regulations that were imposed in the 19th century failed due to the overuse and overexploitation of this natural resource. Further modifications were thereby considered to protect the groundwater table.
In the regulations imposed in the 1970s, some of the control over the groundwater was transferred to the state government.
Even after the imposition of this bill, all the rights of the landowners over the groundwater were not lost. This bill was only imposed in some of the states.
The other two major disadvantages of the bill were that firstly it did not address the most important problem of the falling water table and also did not consider its conservation at aquifer level.
The Groundwater Bill, 2017- A new Paradigm for Groundwater Conservation
The groundwater bill that was proposed in the year 2017 was for the regulation and removal of the outdated and environmentally unfriendly measures of groundwater conservation. This regulation considered water to be a public resource.
It also considered the importance of conservation of water at the aquifer level to maintain the optimal level of the groundwater table. Certain precautionary principles for the conservation of water were also added to this bill.
The major disadvantage that it faces is that it is not implemented properly and thereby its regulatory control still lies in the hands of local users.
Water being the most important natural resource needs to be conserved and regulated appropriately. Proper laws should thereby be implemented effectively so that we can fulfill the needs of every person and also leave a sustainable amount for our future generations.
ASHA workers launched protests for better pay and health insurance
WHAT IS ASHA?
ASHA is an acronym for Accredited Social Health Activist, a government installed worker who works towards the betterment of the health of their respective communities. They are instituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Indian Government and work under the National Rural Health Mission. The target was to enrich every village in India with ASHA workers. Currently, barring the states where ASHA is underway, there are 8,59,331 ASHAs in 32 states and union territories in India.
THE REASON FOR THE PROTESTS
During these crucial times, ASHA workers have been involved in the coronavirus frontline work. Apart from serving fundamental healthcare to the village, ASHAs have been laden with extra work and longer shifts due to COVID-19. They are now required to keep track of the health of the people in quarantine. They have been asked to prepare reports of patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) and Influenza Like Illness (ILI).
These documentation efforts place these workers in an extremely vulnerable position. They are now working under conditions with extreme health risks, with a constant danger of contracting the deadly virus.
ASHAs working during COVID-19
Moreover, ASHAs work extreme hours for meager pay. Some reports say, during COVID-19, ASHAs are working 14 hours a day with an honorarium pay of only Rs 4,500. This pay, even with government subsidies, does not cover the costs of a household in today’s economy. There is also no fixed minimum wage for ASHA workers. This implies that there is a larger scope for their exploitation. Some workers have also revealed that they have not been paid their due wages in months.
Besides, ASHA workers have to work in conditions that are not always favorable. They are expected to reach far-flung and difficult to navigate areas in adverse weather conditions for their work.
In light of this, during the coronavirus quarantine period, ASHA workers across the country have launched protests for better pay and basic health requirements. These protests have been occurring frequently and around 6 lakh ASHA workers joined a 2-day nationwide protest for the realization of their demands back in the beginning of August 2020. It is important to note that almost all of these workers are women and, thus, are more economically and socially vulnerable.
ASHA protestors in Bengaluru demanded a minimum wage of Rs 21,000 a month for sustenance, proper PPE kits for safety, and health insurance for their families. They said that since they are involved in documenting COVID-19 data and keeping track of patients, it is likely that they can become carriers of the virus themselves. 10 unions were involved in these protests including the Indian National Trade Union Congress, the All India Trade Union Congress, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, and the Self-Employed Women’s Association.
A protest rally by ASHAs
The protestors have also expressed their discontent over the fact that the government has not given any compensation to the families of the health workers who have died due to the virus.
Considering that these ASHA workers and other health personnel are working in the frontlines during our battle with the coronavirus pandemic and are the backbone of the health conditions in villages, they have not been accorded the societal value they deserve. It is high time that they are accorded their due.
It has been observed that an increasing number of cases have been registered for crimes against children in recent years. What is more alarming is the significant percentage of these cases that are of sexual nature. A society that is not safe for children is a society that is a threat to humanity and the youth of the global village.
WHAT IS THE POCSO ACT?
POCSO act is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 that was brought about to combat this phenomenon of an increasing number of sexual offenses against children that plague the country. It is a comprehensive law that provides “protection of children from the offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of the child”.
It is supposed to work in child-friendly mechanisms to not cause further trauma to the child and Special Courts are designated to ensure that the proper course of action is maintained.
FEATURES OF THE POCSO ACT
The POSCO Act is the first of its kind that has been introduced in India. Therefore, it is necessary to peruse its features to gain a deeper and more extensive understanding of the Act.
Definition of a Child - Anyone under the age of 18 is considered a child under this Act. ·
Definition of an Offence – The Act defines any abuse of the sexual nature, penetrative or non-penetrative, harassment, and pornography as an offense. Any such assault which has been done by a person in a position of trust or authority in relation to the child, such as a family member, relative, teacher, police officer, family friend, etc, is punishable under this Act. The trafficking of children is also covered by this Act. ·
Provision of Punishment – If any such assault is found to have occurred, the offender is to be dealt with stringent punishment and as rigorous a term of imprisonment and fine as the offense entail. ·
Police as Child Protectors – The Act provides that the police are to perform the role of child protectors throughout the course of the investigation. The police personnel who receive a report of a sexual offense of a child are expected to show a prompt response in delivering the child to safety and protection. The police are also required to bring any such report before the Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours of registering the report.
Medical Examination – The Act provides for the medical examination of the aggrieved child in a way that causes as little distress as possible and in the presence of a person that the child trusts. In case of a female child, the examination is to be done by a female doctor. ·
Special Courts – Special Courts are designated to conduct such cases. The trial should be in camera and without revealing the identity of the child. Above all, the procedures undertaken should be child-friendly. The cases filed are required to be disposed of within a year since it has been reported.
Gender-neutrality – The Act is gender-neutral. The Act is applicable regardless of the gender of the child and the offender. ·
Mandatory Reporting – If anyone is aware of such an act that has taken place then it is mandatory for them to report it to the respective authority or juvenile officer. This is a legal duty and anybody who fails to do so faces up to six months of imprisonment and/or fine. The POCSO Act is significant because of its balanced and well-stipulated approach to instances of sexual abuse of children. However, the Act is yet to reach its full potential. Many such cases still go unreported because of reasons such as the perpetrator being a family member or fear of social stigma. The insensitive behavior of personnel responding to such a case can also be a huge deterrent in the reporting of these offenses.
India is a county of rich and beautiful cultures and religions. Women here occupy a vital yet vulnerable position. On the one hand, they are glorified as goddesses and worshiped but, on the other hand, are tortured, assaulted, and molested.
Various crimes happen against women, such as dowry deaths, assault, rape, trafficking, acid attack, etc.
Various laws are present in the Constitution of India for the protection of women. Some of the laws which help in protecting and safeguarding women are explained.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Dowry is considered any property or any other valuable thing given by the bride's family to that of the bridegroom's. Due to the increase in the dowry system's prominence, women were tortured and even burnt if their parents could not fulfill the demand of the bridegroom's family. Thereby this law was set up.
According to the law, any person who gives or takes dowry shall be punished with imprisonment of a term not less than five years and a fine, not less than Rs. 15000.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Domestic violence includes different forms of violence faced by women. This may include emotional, sexual, verbal, and economic abuse from their partners or his family.
According to the law stated above, those involved in such a crime are punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year and a fine of Rs. 20000.Women who have undergone such situations are also protected in the form of shelter and support.
The sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition, and redressal) Act, 2013
With the increase in sexual harassment cases against women at the workplace, this law was set up.
This law includes any sexual harassment, including an explicit threat of showing detrimental treatment in employment, providing an offensive work environment, and many more. According to this law, specific compensations are paid to the victim concerning the mental trauma and pain she faced, loss of her career opportunity, and the medical expenses.
Section 375 of IPC
Against the most heinous crimes against women, Section 375 of IPC was set up. It involved criminal offenses like rape.
According to this section of the IPC, any person who conducted this crime was punishable with rigorous imprisonment of a term not less than ten years and could be extended to life imprisonment. That person in such a case is also liable to fine.
With the increase in the number of laws set up by the Government of India, women can raise their voices against the violence and assault they face.
India is known to be rich in diverse cultures, religions, languages, and traditions. It is also known for its democracy and population, but the apathy of the country's education system is still in the evaluative mode.
The gender inequality and the patriarchy system are highly rampant. The education system's grade is undoubtedly high in India, but the reach and impartiality are a matter of concern.
Violence against women and girls is the most invasive violation of human rights in the nation today. There is a subtle and blatant impact on the development and so deeply embedded in cultures worldwide that it is more or less invisible.
Gender disparity has been a significant issue in India's mission to achieve universal elementary education. To overcome the problems faced by girls and women, several measures have been initiated across the country. But, we need to understand whether these initiatives have been beneficial.
Gender Background in Education in India
India accounts for 30% of the world's illiterate population, and 70% are women. The problem of gender disparity and discrimination began with access to schooling and the further continuation of studies.
Once the girls are enrolled in school, they are less likely to continue their education than boys. Female education has been accepted to have a strong correlation with other dimensions of human and social development. Even today, many communities continue to under-invest in female education than in male education.
The deeply embedded underestimation of female labor, more identified with reproductive or household fields, triggers many communities' assumption that educating females brings low returns and skills are required in reproductive and domestic socialization than a few years of schooling.
The association of female work for fulfilling domestic responsibilities, including childbearing, has led to a deep-seated cultural connection of girls with marriage and family institutions.
Changing Patterns of Gender Uniformity and Equality in Education
In recent years, India has shown a considerable improvement at every level of education for both girls and boys. Studies and reports have shown significant progress in national literacy levels and particularly female illiteracy during the last few decades.
The gender gap in literacy has even narrowed down during that time. While we have seen such progress in education enrolments, some states are seen as 'educationally backward' with long-standing gendered divisions in society.
Parental preference for male children remains a strong characteristic determining household preference and performance relating to children's education and life opportunities. In almost all states, poor parents from marginalized sections make choices supporting their sons while deciding about their children's education.
The preservation of both male and female students in school and higher studies remains an area of concern regardless of the recent improvement in the learning situation.
Research suggests a range of factors work to progress student education and achievement. Some of these include the availability of adequate facilities, including teaching and learning materials and textbooks, good school management, quality teaching, low teacher-pupil ratios, and community participation.
There have been several innovative programs for promoting educational access started both by the government and NGOs. NGO models have tested a variety of creative attempts to stimulate demand for education for girls.
Further, it should be noted that 'mainstreaming' gender is not just a subject of more incredible administrative action in gender equity. Mainstreaming is successfully achieved when civil society, political leadership, and the state work in different yet complementary ways to push for positive changes.
Several gaps continue to exist in research on gender and education in India. Several tough questions need to be asked and researched to focus on the underlying problems to support gender equity improvements across India.
Pollution is a concern that our country is facing for decades now. To counter this matter, the Environment Ministry of India devised the plan of NCAP in 2018. The principle grail behind the program is to consistently meet the standard air quality at every country's location.
The objective proposed by the Ministry of Environment aims to shrink the particulate matter in the air by 20-30% by 2024, taking 2017 as its base year. Considering that the prevalent conditions of air quality are solely deteriorating, NCAP's initiative is bound to facilitate the existing laws for alleviating the emissions.
NCAP is a collaboration program that requires cooperation between the center, state, and local governments to be a success. This program's objective already aligns with the existing policies, such as the National Action Plan on Climate Change, Smart Cities Mission, etc. This program is city-centric, i.e., it aims to create action plans for the 102 cities in India that exceed the air quality safeguards.
In the most initial phase of its implementation, NCAP hasn't been too successful. Despite claiming that the government is doing everything to reach the program's goals, the emergency-levels of AQI in Delhi last year demonstrated a different side of the coin.
Even in November 2019, the Supreme Court of India criticized the center and state governments for their unsuccessful attempts to control the contamination caused by stubble burning. Critics have also brought into limelight the fact that there's still not a lot of clarity regarding the fund allocation, which could further slow down NCAP's impact.
As it's evident, the execution is just as imperative as the drafting. The unclean air issue is not a new concept, and millions of people suffer through it from the comfort of their homes. It's high time that we teach a zero-tolerance policy for all the matters related to health emergencies.
The holistic picture that binds us all is the common goal to provide clean air to every citizen, and the driving factor for us should be to bring a change for our future generations.
Many would argue that learning is more than in schools and institutions. In certain situations and periods, this would have been right. However, this understanding leaves much to be desired in the present context since education without the proper certificates and documents is thought of as a hoax. Now, institutionalized education is a right and entitlement that is expected to be accorded to everyone.
MEANING OF EDUCATION
In dictionary terms, education means formal learning that is gained from an established and recognized school or institution. Nonetheless, the word is used interchangeably when referring to learning, knowledge, enlightenment, training, etc.
This does not mean that the original meaning is lost. Many states, along with the UN, recognize this meaning and have made education a universal right, some even going so far to make education compulsory for children up to a certain age.
EDUCATION: A MEDIUM TOWARDS EMPOWERMENT
Education is a means toward reversing economic, social, and political disadvantages. A medium of social mobility, education opens doors to several sectors that would usually remain closed for the uneducated. It lends access to resources to the marginalized sections of our society, lending them keys to the doors of their success.
Moreover, through education, the most down-trodden echelons of society, i.e., women, children, the elderly, and the Divyangjan, gain agency to express themselves. It also creates a civil society that is informed and vigilant in the country's affairs and the world and takes an active interest in participating in them.
To earn 90% literacy, India has made education a Fundamental Right stating that children in the age group of six to fourteen years should be provided with free and mandatory education.
HURDLES IN EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT
While education is recognized as a Fundamental Right, India still places low in the Global Literacy Index.
High Dropout Rates – Due to multiple reasons, the dropout rates among children in primary and secondary level is very high. Some parents feel that their children would be more resourceful if they worked in the family business or farm instead of pursuing an activity that does not promise sure results.
Lack of Specialized Education - Most schools in our country do not provide specialized education. The learning done in schools is very general. There is an apparent scarcity of vocational training. It is hoped that the new National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 would reform this system.
Lack of Funds – The funds allocated for education in a financial year in India is meager. India spends only 4.6% of its GDP on education (according to IMD), which is considered less for a country that boasts a very young population.
Technology and Pedagogy – The growing use of technology is also impacting the education sector. Teachers now have to be proficient in teaching with the help of gadgets, a trend that has become mandatory due to the coronavirus pandemic. Though this may seem like a drawback now, it is expected to bear good results in the future.
Expensive Higher Education – Decent higher education requires a great deal of expenditure. This makes it something that the poor cannot afford. Fortunately, India has a significant number of state-funded institutions, though the public-private discourse has brought that into question.
Amongst all of this, the Indian youth still try their best to educate themselves and make themselves capable. From the bare 18.33% after India's independence, we have come a long way and now stand at 74.04% (according to Census of India, 2011).
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