It is the time they should have been attending online classes; seeking answers to their doubts from teachers in their new classes; learning new lessons in core subjects; viewing presentations and answering questions in virtual class tests. But scores of boys from Delhi schools focused on a different plan, secret to the core. They formed a group on Instagram, gave it a bizarre name ‘Bois Locker Room; up loaded pictures of girls, not unknown ones, but their own friends. They started discussing the most unthinkable topics by children of their age – body parts of the girls; made lewd comments and demeaning remarks; planned how to gang-rape them. More students were added to the group, though some claimed they were added without their consent. Luckily, their weird game plan came to an abrupt end when the cyber cell of police got wind of it and arrested some of the ‘villains’.
Most of the students, according to reports, are from top-rated, accomplished schools. What comes out of the whole episode is the sick mindset with which a young generation is growing up. The misogynic comments exchanged among the Instagram group members is a pointer to their mentality of objectifying female bodies, an extremely dangerous development. They are falling prey to a ‘rape culture’ being witnessed around them. They have not imbibed the value of gender equality and respect for their female counterparts. They are inclined to indulge in sexual violence instead of seeing girls on equal pedestal.
The ‘locker room’ episode should open the eyes of both school authorities and parents. Schools have to work out a strategy, making it part of the curriculum, by which teenaged students are taught on the rights and wrongs of sexual behaviour. Lack of proper sex education is making them to turn to porn sites to satiate their curiosity. They should be educated on gender equality and the horrible results of ‘macho’ dominance. Unless they are warned about the legal and ethical consequences of their wayward behaviour, they might be tricked into social media groups by unscrupulous elements. Most of the accused in the ‘locker room’ incident are minors. The parents also have a crucial role to play in developing in their sons the right attitude to girls. Boys should be cautioned against sexualization of girls which can tie their life in perennial knots.
Responsible internet usage is the key to prevent a repeat of ‘locker rooms’. The operators of social media groups like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat should develop some inbuilt mechanism which would not promote sexual violence and exploitation of women. If the boys do not fall in line, the system should make it difficult for them to cross the Lakshman Rekha. Social media platforms cannot wash their hands of the misuse of the technology. They have moral and legal responsibility to safeguard the privacy of every individual.
The comments by the mother of a victim in the ‘locker room’ episode is revealing. Quoting her daughter, she said: “Girls used to firmly believe that boys respect women and no one would violate them. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see now how their trust has been broken.” The boys who stoop to the level of sexual predators will have to pay a heavy price for breaking this trust.(Published on 11th May 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 20)