A few months ago, in March 2012, two 15-year old girls were forcibly stripped completely naked by their teachers Preeti Sharma and Reshma Simaiyain front of more than 40 male classmates.
They had been accused of cheating and the teachers claimed there were going to look for notes hidden on their person. When the girls refused to strip voluntarily, they were forcibly stripped completely naked on the spot. Their classmates laughed, hooted and snickered at them as the girls stood there nude. No scraps of paper were found and after being thoroughly humiliated, the girls had to still endure another three hours with their giggling, teasing classmates before being dismissed.
This is by no means an isolated incident. I’m totally appalled at how accepted the humiliation of school girls seems to be throughout India. Child abuse and abuse of authority happens everywhere – and we here in the United States aren’t immune from it. But in most western democracies the populace is outraged by it.
Last year at school in Orissa, a 8th grade girl was stripped naked in front of 25 classmates because her teacher falsely accused her of stealing money. The girl later committed suicide because of the trauma she suffered.
A teacher at a school in Faridabad paraded a school girl around topless in front of all her schoolmates because her parents forgot to pay a fee.
A schoolgirl in Vijayawada was forced to expose her breasts to all her classmates for not speaking English.
A few years ago, a school girl in New Delhi school was stripped naked by her teacher, ordered to stand on her desk totally exposed and her classmates were urged to make fun of her. Why? Because she didn’t complete all her homework.
In first grade twenty years ago, I suffered a number of embarrassing moments. I had peed myself several times in class and as a result my teacher put me in diapers during recess or lunch period. This went on every day for over two weeks and then occasionally after that. On some occasions students, including several boys, returning to the classroom early saw me partially or fully undressed and then diapered. They were not told to leave the room and therefore got a good look at everything. And I do mean everything.
OK. So, it wasn’t the end of the world and I got over it, learning to live with the teasing.
But years later, as an older student, if I had to take off all of my clothes in front of my classmates each occasional time I did poorly on a test, homework paper or in-class assignment, I might as well simply have gone to school completely naked each day every year after that. There would have been no point in trying to maintain any modesty.
That’s how I later felt in high school when nude pics of me and two close girlfriends were circulated. Those two 15-year old girls probably feel that way now. After all, forty boys saw them standing there totally naked and exposed. They feel ashamed. They feel humiliated. They feel mortified every time they are around those who witnessed or even heard of their degrading treatment. They are now “branded” and they can’t make the boys un-see what they’ve seen. But at least here in the U.S. what happened to my friends and I was considered unacceptable.
Unfortunately, those two teenage girls in India probably aren’t going to have a whole lot of community support. I pray that they have the courage to deal with it.
When are Indians as a whole going to demand an end to the humiliating, degrading strippings of school girls? There are hundreds of millions of decent people in India. When are they going to use their collective power and stop the rampant abuse of children and severely punish the abusers?
I originally published this on my blog at the Experience Project, June 17, 2012.