Back in school, we were never taught anything about sex education. Anything even remotely close to the word “sexuality” was a blind spot.
I remember my Sociology class in the first year where my professor went:
“Sexuality is a spectrum, guys! We have people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual AND Pansexual.”
I didn’t know most of these terms.
This was the moment when I realized that my law school journey is going to be so different from my school journey.
WE ARE QUEER, WE’RE HERE!
In school, all my classmates did was crack stereotypical homophobic jokes (which they picked on from our seniors).
But in college, pride was in vogue. There were LGBTQIA+ support groups that ensured a friendly atmosphere on and off-campus. There were many amongst us who were going through the gender reassignment process. Others were still closeted. They were trying to make peace with the feeling of being trapped in a body that felt wrong.
I can say that I dropped many twisted misconceptions that I had. I was more aware. More sensitized. More woke and eventually– an ally.
We leant to celebrate everything: from when our friends came out to when they simply wore a white shirt with a dazzling rainbow.
THE #METOO WAVE
Hear me out. I cannot be the only girl who complained about another student’s misbehaviour, and was told off for “overreacting” or “thinking too much about it”. In 11th grade, I complained to the Principal regarding a guy trying to inappropriately touch my friend. I was immediately taken to an empty classroom and asked to not spread “rumours” and (you won’t believe) to behave properly. The guy kept on repeating this again and again with other girls and nobody cared. Not even the teachers.
On the contrary, let me take you to a very specific example. In the first half of the lockdown in 2020, a major wave engulfed my law school. The #Metoo wave.
The wave took birth when my batchmate called out a senior for attempting to molest her. She took to Instagram to share her story. From her batchmates to several big pages from Instagram, support came pouring for her.
This created a Domino effect. Girls in my college found heaps of courage in that one post. One after another we saw several women raising their voices to call out to their molesters.
There were so many Instagram posts, that the college finally had to intervene and set up a committee to look into such matters. Another platform was created by the welfare committee to immediately resolve such grievances so that nobody has to stay silent for months or years.
The lack of empathy that the people in powerful positions had in schools, crushed the uproar towards any kind of harassment. However, it was probably the awareness of the rights or the sheer power of the laws which strengthened the voice of women in law college.
A lot of you all should relate with this. There was always this one girl whom the entire school slut-shamed. She wore mascara, probably even a hint of lip gloss. The length of her skirt was never proper according to the teachers so she was constantly scolded. Hence, we all slut-shamed her. Probably many of us did it without realizing but now our woke selves know that we did it.
We also were very critical of our classmates who smoked or consumed alcohol. Yes! We did that too.
It wasn’t the same in college, though. It was uncomfortable in the beginning, to be honest. The idea of drinking and smoking and not adhering to the (idiotic) norms of dressing that we were brainwashed with. However, we did get over it soon. Most of us realized how it just doesn’t matter what anybody wears or if they like to smoke or drink.
Getting rid of that part of the brain which judges people all the time, just because of the choices that they make, was the first thing I learnt. It was also the best thing that I learnt.
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
We just changed schools. Regular school to law school. The law school was still part of the same society as the regular school, right? When we stopped moral policing our mates on the basis of their clothing and progressed to other better things, our professors didn’t.
It’s not allowed in my college library for girls to enter with their shorts on while guys can easily do so, wearing their sports shorts. Girls in law colleges are still called out in front of the entire class for wearing figure-hugging clothes. Guys can wear shirts enhancing each and every muscle on their bodies and nobody gives a damn. Nobody.
Another shocking thing is the way the management tries to crush criticism of the college. It’s ironic to teach about the freedom of speech and the power of dissent in the classrooms, only suppress a voice that is dissenting.
There have been multiple cases of the administration implementing irrational fee hikes. For example, multiple private colleges still went with the regular 10% hike in the fee even in the middle of the pandemic. Classes were happening online, for God’s sake! The pleas of students fell on deaf ears.
Even generally many law schools have policies banning students from posting anything negative about the college. This results in immediate suspension.
Don’t even get me started on incidents of sexual harassment on the campus. Auto-drivers have masturbated right in front of the girls’ hostel. Guards have done that too, in the lifts. Male students have themselves been perpetrators. The favourite hobby of law schools is to brush these allegations under the carpet. The only thing that they concern themselves with is the college’s reputation and the NAAC grade. Deal with that.
One would expect that a law college might be the place without discrimination or prejudice. The kind of discrimination that many underprivileged or the less fortunate go through in their schools. Probably because students here are taught about law & equality and that should result in a more sensitive environment.WRONG!
You may totally get bullied for not speaking fluent English (we already know law schools in India are elite clubs for English speakers) or for not having tier-A internships. Sometimes when you know you are going to be a first-generation lawyer things get really depressing.
For some of us, schools were safe cocoons. There was no pressure of getting good internships. There was no pressure to figure out what stream we are going to specialise into. The only thing that we had to worry about was probably notebook submissions or PTMs.
For some of us, school was toxic. It suppressed our individual selves so that we could fit into one uniform mould. So law school turned into a safe haven where we could finally be the best version of ourselves.
As a student who has had first-hand experience of both school and law school, I believe there is a lot to do.
No school should treat students that they feel suffocated because they match the conventional standards. Every student is different and that should be acknowledged. No institution should pretend to teach law to students, only to later act in contradiction of justice. The knowledge given in the classrooms should reflect the freedom given to students.
For all those who are already in law school, I understand what you’re going through. For law aspirants who stuck till the end of this article, your experience may completely vary from mine.
I just hope yours is just as wholesome and incredible as mine has been.
Aeshita Singh is a 3rd-year law student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She mostly likes writing about personal stories or learnings from her own life. A self-claimed tea aficionado with a great liking towards period dramas and fictional novels, she is often found binge-watching any random series to escape from her real life.
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