The newly-issued Health Ministry guidelines for peer educators are refreshingly progressive and a step in the right direction.
Unlike the Indian legal system’s regressive attitude towards LGBT rights and gender relations and roles, the guidelines are modern and liberal. They normalise homosexuality and adopt an admirable view of gender dynamics by highlighting the importance of consent when it comes to relationships and admonishing gender stereotypes.
The guidelines include the following lines:
“A boy can cry to give vent to his feelings. He can also be soft-spoken or shy. Being rude and insensitive is not a sign of masculinity. It is alright for boys to like things like cooking and designing that are normally associated with girls; adopting the role of the other gender does not mean that he is not male. The same applies for girls who talk too much or like to dress like boys or play games like boys. It is wrong to label such people as ‘sissy’ or ‘tomboy’.”
“Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love. They can feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency and respect. It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for whom you have them but always in a respectful manner… Boys should understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means no.”
The move is aimed at educating 26 crore adolescents in the country on health issues by involving 1.65 lakh peer educators. The programme is called “Saathiya” (Friend) and the resource kit prepared for these peer educators was unveiled by Health Secretary CK Mishra on Monday, 20 February. The resource material was prepared in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund.
The Logical Indian applauds the modern outlook of these guidelines issued by the Health Ministry. This sets a positive precedent and must be encouraged by other government departments in the centre and the states. Hopefully, this is another sign that India is ready to embrace a more inclusive attitude towards sex and gender roles. Hopefully, sooner than later, India will rid itself of medieval legislations like Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.