Remove Gendered Messaging From Std. 8 Science Text Book

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The Std. 8 Science Textbook published by the Tamil Nadu Text Book Society has a paragraph in the chapter 'Reaching The Age of Adolescence' that asks students not to wear provocative dresses or sit next to the opposite sex, if they wish to prevent sexual abuse. 

I'm creating this petition to ask for the removal of the paragraph from the textbook and a re-write of the entire section, in time for the next academic year. Here's why:

  • The 'measures' suggested in the section are ill-informed and archaic. They do not address the need for conversations about gender sensitization and equality as the primary step towards creating a safe society.
  • The paragraph assumes that girls and boys can never mix without fear of abuse.
  • The vagueness of the language in the sentences: "Don't wear provocative dresses" and "Take care of the way you sit" makes it open for misinterpretation. It assumes that the onus is on the female student to dress and sit appropriately. 
  • The tone is severely gendered as it does not take into account the fact that both girls and boys are prone to abuse. 
  • The language instils a sense of mistrust and fear of the other in the mind of the reader. 
  • Terms such as 'Primary Prevention', 'Secondary Prevention' and 'Tertiary Prevention' are poorly constructed and end up over-simplifying the process of prevention. The section does not provide  concrete measures to safeguard children from abuse neither does it give out a thoughtful, systematic approach to help victims deal with it.

In addition to the above, I am also questioning the relevance of this chapter in relation to the others listed. How does a chapter on adolescence logically follow a chapter on Agriculture? It simply doesn't add up. I believe the entire Science section needs to be revamped. Textbooks in Indian schools are considered sacrosanct, so it makes it even more important that we are vigilant about what is put in them. We simply cannot let these slips go unnoticed. 

Above everything, I'm embarrassed that the quality of textbooks - in the State I had all my education in, both through the Matriculation and State Boards - has deteriorated to this level. And, as an educator myself, I feel a moral responsibility therefore, to ensure that this is changed.  

I'm asking you to please sign this petition so that this shows up in the radar of the stakeholders concerned - the Minister of School Education, State Council of Educational Research & Training, the Tamil Nadu Text Book Society, text book writers, teachers, parents, students and society, at large. For the sake of the future of our children.

Looking forward to your support. 

Thank you.