Beta Sikhao: Boys will not be Boys, manifesto on women’s safety and equality

Raising Feminist Child
In India, it’s the beti who needs to be protected. She must be stopped from ‘being herself’ and even more often than not, she is asked to behave so she isn’t ‘calling for assault’. The now widely used slogan Beti Bachao should make us think. Is it the daughters / girls who need to be trained to stay safe or is it the sons/ boys who need to be addressed. We at SheThePeople speak to women across India to ask them why rape and sexual assault might find answers in training boys so they never dare to touch a woman against her consent. We raise our girls to fight stereotypes and pursue their dreams, but we don’t do the same for our boys? Why?
Nazia Erum, Author

Women I feel have evolved. Look at the films the young ones are growing up watching- Frozen, Brave, Tangled, Moana, Mulan etc.. All with very strong fiercely independent female characters. So are many of the books that now go beyond ‘happily ever afters’. But the boys? They are still watching more or less the same stuff. We definitely are bringing up our girls to be equals but our messaging for the boys has not changed to keep up. While I am speaking only in terms of metros, the change, though gentler, is there in the tier b and c cities too. Our messaging for the boys needs to evolve urgently. So yes BetaSikhao along with beti padhao.

Rana Safvi, Author & Rights Activist

Give your daughter an education but just sending her to school isn’t enough. Teach your daughter to be confident of her own abilities and that she’s an equal member of society and in no way less than a boy. Her contributions are valuable. Teach her about inappropriate touch and that there is no shame in calling it out. Give her the confidence that you will listen to her and she doesn’t have to suffer alone. The blame and stigma is attached to the one touching her inappropriately, molesting her or in any way making her feel uncomfortable, not her.

Namita Bhandare

Whatever happened to the PM’s advice to ‘control your sons’ made soon in the course of his first Independence Day speech after taking over? I cannot believe that there has in four years not been a single follow up. I find this lack of will to check patriarchy and all its entitlements absolutely disheartening. We’ve come such a long way from December 2012. At least back then, we protested in one voice. Now we are divided, and you have a group of people from the Kathua Bar Association to the BJP MLAs (now resigned) who participated in a march to favour rapists. Where is the civilised world does this happen? ow do we address the problem? Overhaul our education system. Introduce sex education and the concept of consent. Zero tolerance for misogynistic statements made by those in power. There is no short-cut. The solution does not lie in death sentences. It lies in booting out patriarchy.

Dr Rima Ghose Chowdhury

Even girls love to play with cars, not only boys. Even boys should know basic cooking not only girls, so the toy kitchen set is for both. Teddy bear is not girly, even boys like them and there is a utility as well ! (refer to the HBR study Defend Your Research: Adults Behave Better When Teddy Bears Are in the Room  – Even adults behave better and engage in pro-social behaviour as against lying, cheating, demeaning others, when there are teddy bears in the boardroom).The bigger piece of fish or meat is not only for the boy child, teach sharing, involve the girls at home as well when there is a game of cricket or football on, let them decide if they like it or not, both have rights to sports education, higher education, career is important to both, marriage is also important to both, do not push the girls automatically into the kitchen when there are guests at home, involve both, similarly, if the fan or AC or radio needs to be fixed, do not call only the boy to look into it, call both. Get rid of stereotyping.

Deepshikha Chakravarti, Editor

Since my son learnt to be mobile, his favourite place has been the kitchen drawers where we stash the smaller utensils. He loves cooking and feeding us. He is fascinated about my strawberry lip balm. And firmly believes he should be using it before going to school. I have often looked at him and wondered that how life is going to change when he learns the difference between girls’ things and boys’ things. For the time being he is unaware of gender and its manifestation in our daily lives. So, gender equality has to be ingrained at a very tender age. You cannot expect them to learn it, when they have grown up being “boys” and “girls”.
Having spoken to so many women across the world, personally and through SheThePeople, we have come to notice that when women speak up, when they raise important issues with their sons and husbands, when they don’t veil conversations on assault and behaviour – their men come out stronger and empathetic. We need more men in this dialogue to bring a big change.

Aparna Athreya, Kid and Parent Foundation

I often use an acronym. What does it TAKE to share the world with a girl?

T -Tolerance for one another in terms of caste, creed and language
A-Acceptance that we are different yet have the same needs in this World
K- kindness for the daughter, mother or wife
E-empathy to understand how it feels in her shoes
That is what it TAKEs!

Shantala Bhat, Entrepreneur

Ask your son to behave like an animal.. because male animal waits for the permission of female before touching her! We need this in human behaviour!

At the Women Safety Group we held a conversation on this subject to seek opinion and views from women across India. The nation has been collectively upset with the murder and rapes of women across the country with not enough to show in terms of punishment. Questions are being raised if beti bachao is nothing but a slogan. 

Sudha Menon, Author

Janam se hee beta sikhao. Right from the cradle, we need to teach our boys.

Sujata Rajpal, Writer

To keep daughters safe, teach the sons to respect women.

Kanchana Banerjee, Author

It should be both. Boys need to be taught to respect women, to fight those who don’t.

Naina Jha, Working Woman

It should be like Beta Sikhao, Beti Bachao instead of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. Because beti bachegi hi nahi toh what will you teach them?

Aaran Patel, 2015 Teach For India fellow

Our society will only be more equitable, fair and just when we demand more from our boys, and not when we shift expectations for our girls. In my classroom, we explored issues around gender by introducing exemplary women role models who all kids could emulate, and by creating a safe space for kids to voice all sorts of issues that they see around them. What that did was to enable kids to be inspired by women who have risen for humanity in spite of the patriarchy, and also build a community of support while removing the taboo around issues of domestic abuse and eve teasing. 

Our society will only be more equitable, fair and just when we demand more from our boys, and not when we shift expectations for our girls.

As a TFI fellow, one of my proudest moments was in how Armaan and Sunny, two of the boys in my class, reacted when a younger boy teased one of their classmates. Instead of keeping quiet or lashing out, they decided to sit the boy down and explain the importance of respect. If my students in the third grade understood that respecting women is not just about their sisters and mothers but about our shared humanity, that gives me tremendous hope for the direction in which our country could go.”

Campaign Gains Momentum

CSR India headed by the dynamic Ranjana Kumari has also started a campaign asking women and men to talk about making boys are the centre of all attention in educating them on what’s okay, what’s not.

Global Conversation

And then there is the global conversation on it. A piece in the Guardian put it well. “It’s one thing to perform respect out in public. It’s another to fully understand women are humans with their own valid needs and desires…What feminism should mean to men is not think this thing or vote this way. It’s not about using the right language to describe women, or learning a respectful behavior toward women on the street. It’s a project that needs to illuminate the dark, unconscious urges that power the violent behavior.”

If we want to break new ground in the gender equality challenge, we need to do it collectively. More and more we at SheThePeople report on the reasons for rape and murder and sexual assault, the more convinced we are we need men in the room to know what’s going wrong and why. We agree with all the views we have shared in this article and urge you to share your thoughts and pass this around for more opinion.

We request you to support our award-winning journalism by making a financial contribution towards our efforts. Your funds will ensure we can continue to bring you amazing stories of women, and the impact they are making and spotlight half the country's population because they deserve it.

By proceeding, you are agreeing to our Terms of Service .View our FAQs and Support page .