Teach children about consent to end gender violence

Teaching children that it’s okay to say ‘no’ and respecting their decisions is fundamental. [iStockphoto]

When I was growing up,m there was this girl in our class who was the butt of all jokes.

She came from a family with a history of violence. Her father was infamous for the many times he went home drunk and threw his family out of the house at night.

Neighbours took turns in hosting the family until he sobered up and got back to his senses the following morning. Such incidents took a toll on my classmate. She was always a loner and only spoke to a few of us in class who didn’t ridicule her because of her family’s history.      

As the world observes the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Abuse, I remember my classmate whose home was synonymous with violence. Her mother moved out when the beatings became more frequent but left them behind. My classmate dropped out of school. She got married and the cycle of violence continued.

Every child deserves a peaceful home where they feel safest. When this peace is taken away, the only thing they grow up knowing is violence. Children who grow up in such families in most cases end up in violent relationships.

As we continue to advocate an end to gender-based violence, it becomes imperative to reflect on the root causes and the avenues through which we can foster lasting change. One pivotal aspect often overlooked is the role of parents in shaping their children’s understanding of violence and consent.

Consent has been and will always be the cornerstone of healthy relationships and a powerful tool in preventing gender abuse.

To end the cycle of violence, we must start early, within the confines of our homes, by instilling the principles of consent in the minds of the next generation. Parents are the primary educators in a child’s life, and the lessons taught at home have a lasting impact. It’s not enough to focus solely on teaching children what consent is; parents must also exemplify it in their relationships.

From an early age, children observe and absorb behaviours, forming the foundation for their future interactions. Consent education goes beyond a mere understanding of boundaries; it involves challenging ingrained stereotypes. Parents can play a pivotal role in dismantling these stereotypes by fostering an environment where children are free to express themselves without the constraints of gender norms. This not only promotes equality but also helps in creating a society that respects individual autonomy.

Creating a culture of open communication is also paramount. We should encourage our children to voice their thoughts, concerns, and questions. In the digital era, where social interactions extend beyond physical boundaries, parents must equip their children with digital literacy skills. This includes understanding the implications of sharing personal information online and respecting consent in virtual spaces.

Teaching children that it’s okay to say ‘no’ and respecting their decisions is fundamental. By doing so, parents empower their children with a sense of agency, instilling the belief that their feelings and choices are valid and deserving of respect.

As we navigate the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Abuse, let us not overlook the transformative power of parental guidance.

By actively engaging in conversations about consent, breaking gender stereotypes, and fostering open communication, parents can contribute significantly to building a society where respect and understanding form the bedrock of all relationships.

Let’s recognise the instrumental role parents play in shaping a future free from gender-based violence - one where consent is not only understood but celebrated.

-The writer is an editor at The Standard


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