This week, Tuesday 26th March, we’ll be hearing from Padmini Iyer, doctoral student at the University of Sussex, presenting her paper “Gender, sexuality and schooling: researching sex education in Delhi”.
NOTE THE VENUE: Once again we are happy to announce that the upcoming NGender seminar will be held on the top floor of Bramber House, site of the Occupy Sussex protest – NOT Silverstone as advertised in the poster.
Following the Delhi gang rape case on December 16th 2012, issues relating to gender and sexuality have been furiously debated in India. Amid numerous proposed solutions to increase women’s safety, from improved street lighting and a more gender sensitive police force to self-defence classes for schoolgirls, the need to challenge prevailing gender and sexuality norms in schools has also been widely cited.
For the past three months, I have been in Delhi for the first phase of my PhD field research. My study focuses on gender, sexuality and schooling in Delhi secondary schools, and I’m particularly interested in exploring the competing discourses on gender and sexuality in India, and understanding how young people’s lived experiences fit into these often heated debates. Schools can be key sites which enable the regulation of young people’s sexuality and the (re)production of gender norms, and sex education curricula are a key means through which this occurs. As Thomson (1993) has noted, sex education both constructs and confirms the categories of ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’ which it regulates, monitors and controls.
This paper attempts to characterise some of the competing ‘official’ discourses on gender, sexuality and schooling in India, by examining examples of ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ government reports from 2009 and 2013. After this, I will outline findings from preliminary analysis of two ‘life skills’ curricula which are currently being implemented in Delhi schools (including an explanation of the political shift from ‘sex education’ to ‘life skills education’). This preliminary analysis forms the basis of a fuller feminist critical discourse analysis in my final thesis, which will interrogate the categories of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ behaviour relating to gender and sexuality in these curricula, and consider the wider implications of these categories for secondary school students in Delhi.