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Man”s gift of Pandora”s Box to the Animal World

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By Shivangi Singh:

In-breeding or incest is a taboo in almost all cultured civilization. However, the most civilized creature treading on Earth does not think that it applies in a very similar fashion for other animals as well. In-breeding is a taboo as per societal norms and it has scientific basis too. Mating among close relations does not eliminate the ‘bad gene’ which renders the next generation weaker. Meeting and mating are steps towards normal, healthy physiological need-fulfillment for not just human-beings but all animals. Nature gives every individual the right to choose its mate, or, sexual partner and this definitely includes animals, both wild and domestic. It’s simply cruel to force them to reproduce just for the sake of science and this is exactly what in-breeding is all about.

In-breeding is the mating of closely related animals, for example: parent and offspring or siblings, etc. It is carried out in both wild and domestic animals for various reasons. Whether it is due to better quality of products, as in the case of domestic animals, or as a result of the fear of poaching, in-breeding is undoubtedly and sadly the result of human interference. One of the biggest disadvantages of in-breeding is that it is not the result of natural sexual excitement so it doesn’t lead to sexual satisfaction and need-fulfillment, which in time weakens the sexual interest in these animals, consequently harming their minds as well as bodies. The focus here is simply on producing higher number of off-springs and not on the beautiful extension of a loving relationship in the physical plane.

Another in-breeding trade-off is that it weakens the immune system of not only the off-springs but also the participating animals, the parents. In fact, a single virus is enough to put an end to several in-bred lives. The reason for their weakened immunity is the lack of variety in their genes. Nature has made mating the playground for many different genes to come together and form new D.N.A.s responsible for taking the species forward and also to fight new and varied diseases. The uniformity of genes may be fatal, for if the genes are all the same the species can only adjust and adapt to a fixed perimeter. Darwin made it clear when he put forth the “Survival of the fittest” theory that genetic changes are the key to longevity and the assurance for the survival of the species. He may not have pointed out immunity and ill-effects of in-breeding specifically, but that is only because he might never have imagined that humans will turn into such cold-blooded, controlling species one day.

Yet another medical fall-out of in-breeding is what is termed as ‘in-breeding depression’. It occurs as a result of mutations in the mother’s body because of mating with a member of the same family and this is inherited by the child. Now, if the same mother has two children and they are made to mate, the problems get compounded as both of them are already suffering from in-breeding depression. So basically, all familial traits will continue to grow and the negative traits have high chances of becoming worse. If anything, it makes the hereditary diseases stronger in the bodies of the off-springs, making them genetically weaker than their ancestors and much more susceptible to any attacks on the species by their natural enemies.

Due to its unique nature, in-breeding is mostly done under laboratory test conditions for scientific purposes. Many experiments, especially those of drugs, cosmetic products, pharmaceuticals and research mating habits, require the in-bred animals to be used as the dummy experimental piece. The ultimate aim for these scientists is human development. Viewed from a different perspective, it is all about human ignorance towards other species and their lethal superiority complex. Using other life-forms to stay ahead in the genetic race hardly makes a good argument for the scientists’ case. While the animal right activists have protested several times, the governments of countries across the globe seem to be hardly concerned. After all, who has time for animals when the scandalous lives of the supreme beings make for juicy gossip, right?

It is no secret that human-beings misuse nature’s bounty. They abuse the gift of intelligence against it. In the pride and prejudice of humans, innocent animals get the boot. They are treated as a disposable entity by man, rather than as praise-worthy creations of the same one God. All the poaching, in-breeding and animal experimentation cries out loud that it is high time the human interference in just about anything and everything is stopped. It is time to let nature take its own course. It would be better for all if man sets certain ground rules while dealing with nature and its creations, and let the old adage of “Vasudhev Kutumbakam”, meaning, “The entire world is one big family”, come true.

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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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