West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee remarks, 'Lesbianism is against the culture of West Bengal'. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The latest controversy that this country saw last week was in the form of a comment by West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee who blasted a supposedly lesbian behaviour from a group of students. The comments came after a strong statement from the school which allegedly forced the girls to write a confession saying they were involved in homosexual activities within the premises and threatened to expel them on the ground that they were displaying lesbian behaviour.
While schools have been taking strict action over indiscipline, handling a thing like this in a stern manner comes as a shocker. The girls, who might not even be aware of the illegal act and its consequences - if they were involved in it at all - have been allegedly tagged with title 'lesbians'. It is also a setback to the young girls, who are still coming to terms with their sexuality which is developing.
What's even more appalling is the comment by the minister, who holds a responsible position and oversees the 'overall development of each child'. Holding such an honourable position demands to understand the development of a child in all aspects, be it academic, social, physical or psychological.
It is important for the entire society, including the parents, schools and even the education minister, to understand that the girls had just entered the new phase of adolescent life which is bound with an ample number of changes.
Adolescence is a phase of life where major biological and psychological developments take place. An adolescent goes through various physical, mental and emotional changes which are often a burden to understand and handle. Puberty is reached which is a major landmark in the development of self-awareness about sexuality and one's sexual orientation. It is important to understand that biological, psychological and social factors play a major role in the development of sexuality at this stage. While the displayable biological changes are the result of genetic factors, an individual's sexual character is developed due to the neuro-endocrinal factors. In addition to this, the attitude of social surroundings toward sexuality, parenting style, peer relationship also influences the sexual learnings and the sexual attitude of the teens.
While confronting the developing sexual interests, the teens might feel attracted towards the same sex, without being aware that it is against the order of nature as well as not permitted by the Indian law. Confusion about sexual orientation is a usual thing among adolescents, which is often stressful teens feel guilty and anxious over their unusual interests. But the elders have a responsibility in such a scenario - to explain what is acceptable to the society and what is not. Instead of treating 'homosexual' behaviour among teens as a mental illness, they should be taught the acceptable behaviours of the society. It is important that adolescents are facilitated with gender and sex-centric counselling, instead of penalising them threats of 'expulsion from school'. It will generate a fear of being ostracised from the society. This will make the teens frightened, isolated and terrified of what the society thinks of them. Such reactions will have an adverse impact on the psychological development of the adolescents.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)