LGBT activists slam Kolkata school for accusing students of lesbianism

By Milinda Ghosh Roy

Kolkata, March 17 (IANS) LGBT members and activists have slammed the actions of a school here, terming it “human rights violation and desensitisation of societal institutions”, after the all-girl institute allegedly forced 10 of its students to write confessional statements about their “lesbian acts” in its premises.

The activists also denounced the comments of West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee who dubbed lesbianism as “against the cultural ethos of Bengal” and said the ideas of exploring sexuality should not be inculcated at the school level.

Terming the incident “shameful”, Varta Trust that promotes dialogue and understanding on gender and sexuality, demanded action against the acting Headmistress of Kamala Girls School and called for age-specific gender and sexuality education in schools and colleges.

“The entire incident is a reflection of the desensitisation of societal institutions and administration at a time when civil society organisations in Kolkata and Bengal have been scrupulously working to spread awareness on gender, sex and sexuality and make it part of free expression and exercise of basic human rights through a range of activities,” said Pawan Dhall, settlor of the organisation’s trustee board, in a social media petition.

“Undertake a massive drive to sensitise the heads, faculty and administrative staff in schools and colleges as well as parents/families of students on gender, sex, sexuality and mental health,” he added.

Meenakshi Sanyal of ‘Sappho For Equality’, an activist forum for LGBT rights, said the school teachers accused the girls of homosexuality without noticing any traits of lesbianism in their behaviour.

“When we talked to the school authorities, we asked them what sort of traits did they see in those girls to tag them as homosexuals or lesbians. They said some incidents were seen by the girls’ classmates and later reported to the headmistress. You see, holding hands or getting close does not imply lesbianism,” she said.

“These girls can have homoerotic traits in them but that does not make them homosexuals. The way the teachers approached the issue was shocking as it would have severe impact on the mind of those little girls. We are indeed living in a turbulent time,” she pointed out.

Questioning Chatterjee’s statements, the activist said: “We will issue a open letter to the state Education Minister for his statements and would circulate it across the country. We do not know which culture was he referring to?”

Sanyal also claimed the teachers in schools and colleges should be sensitised about the differences between sex and sexuality to avoid such misunderstandings and misconceptions in future.

The incident surfaced on March 12 after authorities of the south Kolkata school levelled allegations of lesbianism against 10 of its Class 9 students, following complaints by some of their classmates and allegedly obtained written admissions of such act from them.

Peeved over the school’s stand, angry guardians stormed the acting Headmistress’ Office and engaged in a verbal duel with her.

(Milinda Ghosh Roy can be contacted at milinda.r@ians.in)

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