Why Do Indian Teachers Give Harsher Punishments To Boys Than Girls At School?

If we start forgiving or judging mistakes based on a person’s gender, we will never build an equal and safe society.

Rudrani Gupta
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When I was in school, I heard how our hostel superintendent had beaten a boy till he started bleeding. I was so scared after listening to this news that I refrained my brother from getting admission to my school. It wasn't an isolated incident though. Belts, sticks, legs and hands- everything was used to thrash boys for silliest of mistakes. But, I didn’t know why such harsh measures were not used against girls if they broke rules. In fact, at my school, teachers were not allowed to beat girls with sticks. While punishing harshly is wrong in itself, what is the reason behind this reverse gender bias at school? Why do male students receive harsher punishments than female students?

Akash Kumar, an Computer Engineering student, recalled an incident from his school days and said, “A teacher, who used to teach computer science to us, had a regular routine of asking questions to students bench by bench before starting his lecture. The ones who couldn’t answer were made to stand for minutes and then beaten with a stick three times. But the punishment was only for boys. Girls were just warned to study better and answer the questions in the next class.”

Kumar never questioned the bias even though it affected him so much. But somewhere he had internalised that it is okay to treat boys with cruelty but not girls. He also feels that male teachers are especially harsher towards boys and are gentler with girls. But is this gender bias, even though in reverse form, justified? Why must teachers treat students differently because of their gender?

Gender discrimination at schools is not a new concept. It is practised in different ways to oppress students because of their gender. As a woman, the discrimination I faced was mainly related to my ">clothes and my sexuality. I was asked to wear long skirts and keep a distance from boys so that they don’t get distracted. But as far as the discourse of gender discrimination is concerned, we often falter by assuming that it is always practised against girls. We miss on the point that men too are equally oppressed by patriarchy. And this is the reason why many of us did not take the unfair punishments in school seriously.

Punishment for boys at school: Reverse gender bias

The major reason why teachers give harsher punishments to boys is the assumption that they are stronger and naughtier. Punishing them is considered necessary so that they remain obedient. No matter how small a mistake is, boys are punished severely sometimes to teach them a lesson and sometimes to strengthen the notions of masculinity in their minds. If a boy cries after being punished, he is made fun of for not being man enough or fear ‘small’ punishments.

Rahul Kumar, an Engineering graduate, said, "Boys were usually made to stand outside the classroom for committing a mistake while girls had to stand inside the class for the same mistake. Maybe girls lacked strength, or that is what we were made to believe. Or maybe girls just didn't do anything worth punishment."


Why do teachers often assume that every boy is bad and deserves to be punished harshly to straighten him out? Is it right to impose the idea of toxic masculinity on kids? Is it right to make them internalise that the world will always treat them harshly due to their gender and they cannot shed a single tear about it?

Suggested Reading: Gender Disparity Continues To Plague Research Areas

Soft corner for girls: Not as innocent as it seems

I do not think that the ‘soft corner’ we addressed above for female students comes from a sense of care. Treating girls gently is an age-old patriarchal practice disguised in the form chivalry. Most men and even women are brought up to believe that girls are physically and emotionally weak. They cannot face difficult situations in life- be it pulling a chair or getting punished. So the reason why girls are not punished is because teachers think they can't endure harshness.


Sometimes, the ‘soft corner’ for girls is just a ruse to harass them after gaining their trust. Some teachers use their soft nature to gain the confidence of the female student and then harass them. I am not saying this without any proof. I have witnessed it personally. My tutor who was otherwise famous for being strict towards students was never rude to me. And when I started trusting him, he harassed me.

Punishment or mistake should not be judged on the basis of gender, caste or religion. If something is wrong, it is so for every person irrespective of who they are. If we start forgiving the mistakes because of a person’s gender, we will never build an equal and safe society. If a person has the freedom to commit mistakes and be guilt-free, they can do it compulsively without fearing its consequence.

Lastly and most importantly, giving harsh punishments to kids is a crime in itself. No teacher has the right to brutally assault a kid, be it a boy or a girl. No parent deserves to live under the fear that tomorrow their kid will come home injured in the name of disciplining. Schools are places where knowledge thrives. Let us not make it a breeding ground for regressive gender norms and bias

Views expressed are the author's own. 

Gender discrimination reverse gender bias