WHAT IS BULLYING
When kids grow up in a safe and stable environment, they grow up to be happy and stable individuals. In comparison to this, if a kid grows up in an unsafe and potentially dangerous environment, they could inherit a wide range of emotional problems in their adult life like low self-esteem, depression and so on. One of these potentially dangerous environments is created through bullying. The culture of bullying can emerge anywhere where people interact with each other.
Bullying can be defined as when people or kids have to go through emotional or physical abuse at the hands of someone with either real or perceived power over them. It happens if someone is aggressive in relation to another and involves an imbalance of power between the perpetrator and the victim, whether it be in terms of physical strength, popular following or blackmail with a threat of disclosing private information. The victim of bullying is in a position of weakness in relation to the bully no matter what the scenario.
TYPES OF BULLYING
There are four types of Bullying that can be broadly categorized as:
In verbal bullying, an individual has to go through insults and remarks on their character. These insults might be either homophobic, racist or sexist in character. It is a technique of intimidating in the individual to make them feel small and cornered at all times. Verbal abuse which many might brush off as light hazing can have a severe impact on an individual’s stability.
This category of bullying includes any kind of bullying that hurts someone physically or any possession on their person. It includes shoving, fighting, and damaging property. In most cases, the bully escalates from verbal bullying to physical bullying. Physical bullying often leads to beating up of individuals who challenge the “normal” in any environment, i.e, school, college or workplace. This type of bullying might not always happen inside the institution or workplace but any place where the bully would feel least threatened of their position.
Social bullying is harder to trace back to the bully because it is mostly carried out behind an individual’s back to humiliate them in their social circle. It includes lying, spreading rumours about someone, and pushing others to exclude them to hurt their reputation or acceptance. This kind of bullying might arise out of feelings of jealousy or competition as well as a false sense of power over others.
Cyberbullying includes harassing someone through the medium of digital technology. It includes posting hurtful texts or images on social media or any online platform leading to public humiliation. This is a menacing way of bullying and remains hidden because of the anonymity the digital online world offers to the bully. It has emerged as a form of private intimidation and power-play through blackmail and stalking. The dangers of cyberbullying are great because of the feeling of vulnerability is no longer limited to any boundaries. The feeling follows the victim everywhere making them feel trapped and scared.
IMPACT OF BULLYING
National Bullying Statistics
Bullying has been normalized in many parts of the world, even considered as a rite of passage according to many social mores. In India, a study done by a research agency IMRB along with ParentCircle in 2015 discovered that every third child in India has faced bullying in schools in some form. The study conducted had 2,700 respondents with parents and children in equal number.
The Teacher Foundation in association with the organization Wipro Applying Thought in Schools (WATIS) conducted another survey. The study took five years and covered over 15 locations across the entire country. The survey showed that 42% of students between classes 4 to 8 and 36% of students between Classes 9 to 12 claimed they had to face bullying and harassment. The findings showed that boys (54%) have to face more physical harassment than girls (46%). The study also revealed that around 69% of students from classes 4 to 8 agreed that they had difficulty interacting with students who looked or behaved differently from their own selves.
This along with other indicators emphasized on the need for Indian schools to lay more groundwork for better understanding among young students. Schools are a place where children can be nurtured to be more positively receptive of different social realities and identities since every child comes from a different family background. The Director of The Teacher Foundation, Maya Menon said schools should focus more on teaching children “practical social-emotional learning” (SEL) to become well-adjusted adults in the future.
Dorothy L. Espelage from the University of Illinois also conducted a survey in 2014. She followed the patterns of bullying in students from middle school to high school. Her findings suggest that many middle school boys and girls have to deal with homophobic name-calling. It leads them to sexually harass the opposite sex to demonstrate that they are not gay. Her study also showed that there is a direct connection between bullying and sexual harassment. She found that many kids did not even recognize the serious implications of their behaviour. There was also a similar pattern of denial or dismissiveness among the victims of harassment who saw it as a joke.
Representation of Bullying and its Failure
There has been an increase in the portrayal of bullying and its ill-effects over the years to raise awareness over such issues, especially with online streaming services like Netflix taking the stage. However, the subject is rarely dealt with maturity and fails to portray a realistic narrative of bullying and its impact.
The movie 3-idiots starring Aamir Khan tries to deal with ragging, a form of bullying that is prevalent in college hostels across India. But the movie does not show the serious damage it could cause and instead shows the protagonist saving his friends from the bullies in an unrealistic manner. Shows like 13 Reasons Why have become a phenomenon in showcasing teenage bullying and harassment. However, it also leans more on stereotyping than actually building complex characters which gives a simplistic understanding of all the issues. There is still a lot of scope in how teenage bullying should be handled in the popular commercialized medium to portray a real and mature narrative.
ANTI BULLYING LAWS
Laws Against Bullying in Schools and Colleges
India has no legislation for dealing with bullying in schools. In 2001, the Supreme Court ordered that once the student complained about bullying, it was the school’s responsibility to lodge an FIR. In 2009, when a medical student died in Himachal Pradesh after he was beaten by his seniors, UGC announced a string of guidelines to be followed by all colleges. This included
- making students sign an affidavit swearing not to engage in any ragging
- creating anti-ragging committees and squads to keep a vigil in the hostels at odd hours as well as make surprise visits in classrooms.
- holding college administration accountable for lodging an FIR within 24 hours.
In 2015 the HRD Ministry emphasized to create similar anti-Ragginfg committees. Notices were to be put up to warn students to not engage in bullying. However, many students who go through ragging do not feel safe to come forward and report the incident. They are afraid of the consequences especially related to any investigations that might reach their family members.
Laws Against Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is becoming a new source of terrorizing in this digital of age. A survey by Microsoft revealed that 53% of children in India have been bullied in the cyberspace. The flexible and ever-changing nature of the virtual world makes it harder to set up a traditional legal infrastructure against it. India still does not have any legislation to deal with cyberbullying.
The practice of bullying and intimidation reflects a society that believes in marginalizing people who are different. It only satisfies the need for feeling powerful over someone else. There is, however, an effort to make a change where everyone celebrates the anti-bullying day on May 4th every year. It is important to have more stringent laws but it is also necessary to make the children understand the serious implications of bullying and how to face it without fear. Only then can we grow as a society without fear.