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Breaking Out Of The Traditional Gender Stereotypes: LGBT Deserve Equal Rights!

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By Shelly Mahajan:

A notion that was considered as morally demeaning and a farfetched dream till a few decades back has today become an imperative step towards progress and harmony of majority of nations.

Over the past one year, several countries have taken steps towards recognizing same-sex marriages. Last year saw Denmark becoming the eleventh country to approve such marriages. Whereas this year boasts of a longer list- Uruguay has passed a bill on the same, The New Zealand Parliament and French National Assembly approved gay marriage legislation and more recently, US Supreme Court ruled DOMA Act as unconstitutional.


Predictably, these developments have raised questions on the plight of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community back home. Apparently, we are yet to give the community a dignified social life with access to medical, education and employment facilities, let alone considering same-sex marriages and further ahead, adoption rights. Gay parades may have gained prominence in India in the recent time, drawing huge support but the reality is far from being cheerful. Not long ago, India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad invented a disease called MSM, terming the idea of Men having Sex with Men as unnatural and not good for India .

Shockingly, the newly adopted Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, leaves out male, transgender and other victims of penetrative sexual violence from its ambit by specifying the victims of rape to be only women and continues to attach stigma to homosexuality.

Let’s not forget that the transgender community faces huge employment discrimination and is left with only sex work as an option to livelihood. That’s again where they are exploited unduly. They also suffer from social/economic/political exclusion, high HIV prevalence, largely because of health barriers in accessing HIV testing, antiretroviral treatment and sexual health services.

At hospitals, Hijras are deliberately addressed using male pronouns to be registered as males and admitted in male wards followed by verbal harassment by hospital staff. Moreover, need for sensitive and trained healthcare providers for transgender patients have long been overlooked. Further, India lacks specific guidelines for sex change operation procedures that have made it difficult for them to have access to safe medical facilities for Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) .

New regulations on surrogacy prohibit gay couples from hiring commercial surrogates in India. People from the LGBTQ community are regularly refused accommodations because of homophobia and have to depend on private initiatives like GHAR (gay housing assistance resource). Parents who discover their children to be gay or lesbian take them for counseling believing it to be a curable ‘disease’.

Not surprisingly, every time we see them around us, we don’t look at them, we gape at them and that is a challenge every minute. The question stands, “whether we are yet ready to distance ourselves from long voiced religious, cultural and ethical arguments?

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  1. Raj

    I personally feel that the Govt. must stay out of cultural things like marriage and should primarily concentrate on maintaining law, order and justice. It should not make any laws with respect to marriage and should let consenting adults decide on how they wish to associate.
    And yes, India has very sexist sexual assault laws which not only leaves out men/transgender from penetrative rape but also does not provide any protection against sexual assault against men/transgenders by women.

    1. Aravindh

      Marriage is not just a cultural issue, it is also a legal and social issue. Married couples get employment benefits, have the status of being in a committed relationship. If LGBT couples are excluded from such legal and social recognition, that is NOT equality, That is continuing their invisibility.

    2. Raj

      Why is it a legal issue? Why am I being discriminated as a bachelor? Why can’t I get those benefits? Are bachelors second-class citizens? Who is the Govt. to spend the tax-payers money subsidizing married couples? I’m being heavily discriminated for being a bachelor by the Govt. I too want all those benefits.

    3. Shelly Mahajan

      Raj, please read about the origin of marriage as to why it was created. Marriage is not simply a cultural concept but more of a legal civil union, an institution. Read up and things will be clearer to you.

    4. Raj

      I have read and I would encourage you to read about the “Separation of State and Church” i.e. Secularism.
      Religious law was “The Law” and there was no distinction between them like we have today. Also if you do want to go back to the origins, marriage was never between the same sexes, so gay marriage is an oxymoron. Not to mention the other regressive laws, which we can dig up if we are going into the past.

      I strongly believe that marriage is a religious institution and not a civil one. In any case, I would like to have my individual rights protected and the duties shared in an equitable manner. Those who wish to enter into an agreement can draw up a marriage contract and get it ratified by a lawyer, such that it becomes a legal document. It will state them terms and conditions of the marriage, the distribution of assets etc.
      But why should that affect other individuals who have no interest in it? Why should bachelors and live-ins subsidize them? Why should gays and lesbians not be allowed to associate in the manner they feel fit because of the Govt.s static definition of marriage?

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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