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“I Don”t Care If He”s Gay”: Let The Private Lives Of Celebrities Remain So

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By Lata Jha:

As we all know, talk at Indian social gatherings revolves around these half a dozen topics. Food, cricket, politics, films, celebrities, but more importantly, the lives, scandals and exploits of those celebrities. So after a five minute discussion on a latest film release at a party, I wasn’t really surprised when my friend cut short my gush about the lead actor saying, “But you know he’s gay, right? My uncle’s colleague’s sister saw him make out with that other guy at a pub once”.

No, I don’t know if he’s gay. I prefer to not know. How do any of us ‘know’ anyway?
We, in India, and I suspect, pretty much around the world, consider it our birthright to discuss the private lives of public figures, and dish out opinions or judgment, regardless of how little we may know of them personally. Not that this judgment does not transcend to other ordinary non-celebrity mortals of the world as well, but celebrities seem to occupy that extra-special corner in our hearts, homes and conversations. It’s like they’ve asked for their lives to be discussed and judged. It’s outrageous when they ask for a certain amount of privacy.

celebrity lives

Life in the public domain does not mean you submit to leading every aspect of your life for the eyes of the world. As the masses, you can judge their work, their policies, their speech, their gait, maybe even their clothes. But not their personal choices. That, if one goes by the definition of news, is of absolutely no consequence to the nation and in no way, in the interest of the public.

Why should people like Rahul Gandhi or Karan Johar answer questions about who they’re going out with? Who are you to judge whether they need to or should “come out of the closet”? How does their sexuality affect their work or how they interact with their respective audiences? I have no idea what people are talking about when they say they shouldn’t “hide it” and that we, as a world “can deal with it”? I’m sorry, but how is any of this your business?

Let’s not talk about rights here, skewed as the entire concept is, in our country. I mean, how was I to know your nose would come in the way when I decided to take my umbrella out, right? But do we, as sane individuals ourselves, not realize lifestyle choices are something one is entitled to? And if as the broad-minded nation we claim to be, we can accept and even appreciate trash like the Dostanas of the world, we should give people the space to be who they are in life as a whole also.

You wouldn’t want this done to yourself, would you? You probably couldn’t imagine it.
I’m no Aishwarya Rai fan. But I abhorred what the media did to her in the pre-pregnancy days. It was like she owed the nation an answer as to when, where and how she would conceive, if at all, as some people, maliciously added.

Now before you accuse me of being unfairly and irrationally biased towards what you may think, are a manipulative lot themselves, let me add that I agree celebrities and the media share a symbiotic relationship. You thrust the microphone into their faces for your TRPs, and they smile to end up winning a million hearts. But that happens with mutual consent, doesn’t it? They don’t force themselves on you on an off day, do they? They don’t come prying into your house when you’ve fought with your wife or if your kid’s been thrown out of school, do they? There’s a reason why the private is what it is.

Trust me, I don’t overlook the many attention seekers of the world. There are too many people out there only for cheap publicity. And as the media, we cater to them as well. Why else would Poonam Pandey be a name that we even know of today? I feel ridiculous myself, even admitting that I know of her existence. But yeah, she exists to make a huge enough splash on the front pages of our colourful supplements.

Why can’t we exercise a little restraint? Not just as the media, but audiences, in general. In saying no to both cheap thrills and the temptation to invade and intrude? While the former seeks attention from us, the latter ladles on our plates quite a bit of it at someone else’s expense. We have to realize we aren’t a retarded society.

At the end of the day, I think it boils down to the proverbial do to others as you’d like done to you. Give the celebrities the amount of love and joy that you expect from their work for yourself. They are entertainers and public figures and they need to answer your questions. But they aren’t accountable to you about what they do at home, neither are they here to satiate the voyeur in you.

As masses, we should stand up for these issues. The next time that relative tries making a joke out of a celebrity’s personal life, stand up and tell him you couldn’t care less if he were gay or bisexual or asexual. It matters nowhere in your scheme of things.

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  1. Sridhar

    maam,

    Highly objectionable content…..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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