Kamala Girls School in south Kolkata needs some schooling when it comes to disciplining their students. The school authorities pulled up ten Class IX students and accused them of “being lesbians” on March 8.
This did not go down well with the parents of the girls, who stormed into the room of the headmistress and got into a heated argument with her. The parents alleged that the school had forcefully obtained the written confession from the students.
Sayantani Roy, an ex-student of Kamala Girls School who passed out in 2006 told The Indian Express that the school has traditionally frowned upon “intense friendships between girls”. “It’s not just this school. The whole atmosphere in traditional girls school is very oppressive. I remember we had a teacher who would take it upon herself to scold us if we displayed even a tiny bit of affection to our classmates. The term “Lesbian” was flung around like it’s a swear word,” says Roy who works for a start-up in Bangkok now.
Soumali Chakraborty, another ex-student of the school who passed out in 2007 says that a lot of students in girl’s schools choose to not confide in their teachers about their “confusions”. “They fear discrimination. I had a classmate who wrote me love letters. I didn’t know how to react to it but even then I knew if I told my teachers about this, the girl would be penalised for it. I remained friends with her,” says Soumali, an employee of an IT firm in Bengaluru.
A school official, on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper, “It was a simple act of disciplining the students. They were being naughty in class so they were called into the office of the headmistress and were made to sign a confession. The parents were called to sort out the matter and have a discussion but they overreacted saying that their girls were forced to sign it. They probably thought this was similar to the sexual assault case that happened in February and that we were at fault. We have given back the signed letters to the parents.”
The way the accusations were levelled at the 10 students makes the episode seem anything but a simple case of misunderstanding. The acting headmistress claimed that a few other students complained about the 10 indulging in “such behaviour”. IANS quoted the acting headmistress saying, “We called those students and they admitted it. Considering the sensitive nature of the issue, I asked them to admit it in writing. I have got written admissions from all 10 students.”
Concerned about the students drifting from the “right course”, the acting headmistress told the news agency, “Today we called the guardians to apprise them of the issue. Our aim was to discuss the matter with them so that we can bring these girls on the right course through efforts both at home and in school.”
Malobika, Co-founder, Kolkata-based NGO Sappho for Equality – The Activist Forum For Lesbian, Bisexual Woman and Transman Rights – wonders why the authorities had to shame the girls and then forced them to sign a confession. “What happened with those girls is abhorrent. Not only were they singled out on the basis of a few complaints, which could very well have been pranks, I don’t understand what purpose did the whole exercise serve? Are students in co-ed schools asked to write a confession about their heterosexuality when they are seen spending time together?”
Sappho for Equality plans to investigate what made the school authorities decide to go forward with their line of action. The incident brings to question whether the school’s naming and shaming of the students reek of a homophobic attitude that is prevalent in schools.