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“I Valentine You”, A Deeper Look Into The Concept And Perceptions

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By Arastu Zakia:

Contrary to popular understanding, many things in life cannot be described as either black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. Sometimes, it helps to just look at things from an external perspective and try and understand all aspects of it.

Not much is known about the concept of ‘Valentine’s Day’ apart from the date on which it is supposed to be celebrated and the expectations of giving gifts or proposing to the person you love. Technically, Valentine’s Day was observed to honour one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, evidences of which can be traced back to as early as 496 AD. It is only after the 15th Century that the occasion started becoming associated with love, something that did not necessarily exist in its original conception.

There is also no doubt about the fact that increasingly, an entire industry revolves around Valentine’s Day, much like an Uttarayan or Diwali. According to estimates, approximately 15 crore Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged globally each year, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas. India started seeing the rise of Valentine’s Day in 1992, with special TV and radio programs, and even ‘love letter competitions’. The economic liberalization also helped the Valentine card industry. In fact, when you come to think of it, since it is not a part of our cultural or social inheritance, who would have known about the existence of this concept had the media and the shops and restaurants around us not put up boards about it! Leftists and liberal critics have also said that this celebration aids in the creation of a pseudo-westernized middle class and promotes income inequality.

There has also been a lot of opposition to the concept from the usual suspects. Stories about Hindu and Islamic fundamentalists organizing protests, sometimes violent ones, have been doing the rounds for years now. The ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign organized in 2009 as an answer to one such protest is still fresh in our minds. The reasons claimed by these protesters range from “the concept being alien to Indian culture”, “displays of love being against conventional Indian values”, “globalization destroying Indian history” and so on.

It is safe to assume that Valentine’s Day is known and practiced mainly amongst urban privileged Youth as compared to being a luxury for their faceless, distant counterparts slogging in villages or hunting for livelihood in cities. If we look at Valentine’s Day from the practicing Youth’s perspective, there are two distinct approaches. There are the ones who exchange gifts and cards, propose to the person they love, go out on dates, write poetries and shayaris (most of which are discreetly lifted through Google), visit couples-only places, wear red, consume ‘banned’ liquor and so on. The recently heard joke about “Valentine’s Day coming exactly 9 months before Children’s Day” also hints that Valentine’s Day is perhaps not looked just as a day for love but also as a day for making love. There is no doubt that the gifts made especially for this occasion certainly seem to be sweet and the thought of girls and boys celebrating love does appeal to our Yash-Raj-fantasy-love psyches.

The other branch of thought within the Youth questions the very need of having one particular day, that too defined by the world, to celebrate or express one’s feelings. The liberated lot also question whether the need to jump at particular occasions also implies a lack of happiness and interest in everyday life. Seeing everyone around them doing so or being expected to do so, such occasions also force Youth to practice it even if they may not want to. A trend of gifting a necessarily expensive gift as symbolic of a lover’s ‘status’ or measurement of the partner’s worth is also noticed at times. There is also the increasingly discussed concept of falling in love and getting into a relationship being seen as the ultimate destination while not paying any thought or not knowing how the feeling and the relationship will be sustained after a while.

Good or bad, right or wrong, from a personal perspective, as long as one is not too obsessed with loving or hating Valentine’s Day, one can treat it as just another day that some people celebrate, some people ape, some people hate and most people are unaware of.

You must be to comment.
  1. pooja negi

    ahan….
    I never knew about these all things.
    Thanks arastu zakia for writing such a knowledgeable article.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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