Kerala minister calls out menace of body shaming, but victims have no legal recourse against it

“Schools are primarily where children experience body shaming and it becomes the root cause for long-term body image issues and may lead to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and Eating Disorder (ED) later in their lives. In the developmental years, our minds are fragile and outside of our homes and the familial unit, schools largely shape our personality and confidence. 90 percent of school kids are bullied because of their bodies and their physical appearance. It is something that is not taken seriously even by the school administration and normalised everywhere,” says Kolkata-based clinical psychologist Shatabhisha Chatterjee from the Mental Health Foundation.

“If the Kerala minister’s idea is to be implemented in the school curriculum, it will prove to be extremely beneficial for a child’s holistic development – which begins in the school sphere,” she added.   

“It wreaks havoc on a person’s self esteem as I see in my patients, who are not even aware of the cause of their problem. Without realising the reason, they also seem to cut down on their social engagements because it affects them when people comment on their looks,” says Dr. Samir Parikh, director of mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

A 2019 study conducted by the same department, sampling around 1,244 women aged between 15 to 45 years across eight Indian cities, showed that schools are the primary sites where people experienced body shaming and discriminatory comments on weight, shape, skin colour, etc. 

“In India, body shaming is disregarded and dismissed as jokes, as something so futile that it does not even deserve the government’s attention. Body shaming in schools stems from internalised fatphobia, colorism and an overall bigotry that children inculcate via the society. When I started my body positivity journey on Instagram, I was a teenager who was ruthlessly bullied in school because I was fat, because I did not meet the conventional ‘standards’ set by the society. Now I use this platform to engage and empower anyone and everyone that has been a victim of body shaming. We have all been victims of body shaming at least once in our lives. I, for one, have lived this experience throughout my life,” says an Instagram influencer and plus-size model who has amassed up to 80,000 followers on the platform.

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