News Excerpt
Recent cases such as the ‘Bois Locker Room’ and other examples of non-consensual sharing of images online to threaten and shame the fair sex, have given a disturbing glimpse into the minds of some of our youth and the challenges we still face in these COVID times.

How big is the problem?
•    These instances have raised serious questions about the mindsets of not only of boys but of all youngsters, and their use of social media.
•    Public opinion has pointed the finger at the nefarious influence of technology.
•    A quick fix of deactivating social media handles or deleting so called ‘provocative pictures’ is often the most common response to such situations.
•    COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that women continue to face and this has shown that the glass ceiling remains far from being shattered.
•    While women are holding up more than their half of the sky during the pandemic, the National Commission for Women has reported a surge in domestic violence and cybercrimes, which has made the fair sex more vulnerable as they struggle to fight another pandemic of violence and abuse inside their homes and online.

Steps taken so far
    For those looking to prevent and counter cyberbullying, UNESCO’s information booklet on Safe Online Learning in Times of COVID-19 can also be a useful reference.
    The booklet, developed in partnership with NCERT, supports the creation of safe digital spaces and addresses nuances of privacy, especially in the current context.
    UNESCO, UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA and the South Asia Foundation joined hands to support Nandita Das in the production and launch of the short film “Listen to Her”.
    ‘Action for Equality’ programme driven by Equal Community Foundation, has already trained over 130 educators across India on how to engage boys to achieve gender equality through educational interventions.
    At the core of this initiative is a community based behavioural change program designed to provide young boys with the skills and knowledge, they need to challenge existing gender norms and take action to end violence and discrimination against the fair sex.

What need to be done?
    Young minds are malleable and therefore a concerted effort must be made to shape positive mindsets at this very critical age.As the boundary between the real and the virtual world becomes increasingly blurred, the perceived risks increase.
    We also need to engage with school communities, civil society organizations and governments to define alternatives for pre-existing norms of masculinities.
    Many more schools should adopt ‘School-Related Gender-based Violence’ programmes and curriculums, so that conversations can move out of the locker-room and emerge as healthy discussions in the classroom.
    The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, provides historic opportunities to shape the educational response to these challenges for decades to come.
    Ultimately, societies across the world must sensitize children and young women and men towards understanding the repercussion of their choices and guide them to actualization of their own individualities.

It is fairly evident that the global movements towards gender equality and the eradication of violence against women are here to stay and hopefully to grow. One of the most important lessons to be drawn from these movements is that change can be affected through peaceful means when people from different walks of life come together in unison to confront the dominant social norms.

Salient features of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986