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Being A Woman Is Not Easy, Being A Woman In India Is Tougher

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By Avantika Debnath:

In the 30 years of my life, I have come across many real women and have witnessed their real challenges. In fact, I have been scrutinized for being what I am. I have been condemned for what I am not. I know women who were denied any assistance from government authorities because of the prejudice running against these ‘modern’ women in ‘heels’. They scan our behavior through those judgmental eyes and abhor us for our non-traditional Indian ways that do not comply with the standards put forward by the moral police.

I am just another corporate professional working in an Indian metro city. As a woman, I often feel that  to pave way for the modern, independent woman, the society suspects that a skeleton will  pop out any moment from their closet. And this feeling has been brought home by the very mentality of an average Indian man and in many cases even the average Indian woman. We breathe in a country where the thought process of the population gets shaped, to a great extent, by what the television presents us with. And flinches the blunder. These never ending, immortal daily soaps telecast on Indian television paints a messed up image of the modern day woman. They portray the ‘good girl’ as the one who is always draped in yards of cloth, home-bound, innocent to the point of dumbness, running to the temple and crying out her troubles in front of the idol of a deity. The clutter gets solemn when all their vamps are English speaking women in western attire. Why do these channels propagate the today-woman as the antagonist? Why can’t the pub going careerist woman be presented as the benevolent one? Let’s get candid out here, how many of us are a Parvati or Tulsi or Anandi in real lives? None. But that is what is expected out of us. The society, relatives and the in-laws want the 21st-century real woman to be a fictional character from their daily soaps. And here is where things get topsy-turvy for the real woman.

An average Indian woman, in fact, every woman is indeed the epitome of patience and tenacity. I have witnessed this numerous times in numerous ways. But her patience knows a limit too. And when the bounds of her patience are disturbed, only heaven knows what hell she can break. She doesn’t have to be a protagonist of a war, she can be just you and me. But she can do things beyond people’s perception of hers.

After testifying to such courageous sothe-bridal-pyre-nainam-dahati-pawakah-400x400-imaeajp4eztanzjpuls’ struggle, I penned down the story of Meera in ‘The Bridal Pyre – Nainam Dahati Pawakah’. People often ask me, why did I choose Meera’s story for my first book? Why not a love story like most of the authors of my age. They ask me, is Meera someone I know? Someone close to me? I laugh. Meera is indeed very close to me, I know her like I know myself. Meera, is you, me and every other woman I see around myself. Meera is not one woman, she is a compound of all the women I have come across in my life. Meera’s life, her personality, her sufferings, have something that every woman, Indian or otherwise, has faced, at least once in her lifetime. I wanted to put an end to this suffering. I know writing a book is not a step strong enough to end the plight of the average Indian woman, but my power is limited. All I could do is write a story. But Meera is not a weak soul like me.

“I have seen such strong men cry like babies while getting a broken bone fixed. How are you bearing with this pain so tranquilly?” asked the doctor. “Maybe I am not a man, but what made you think that I am not strong?” Meera thought. She is strong indeed.

Meera’s challenges are real, the kind every woman born and raised in a third world country has to put up with. Her mistreatment at the hands of her husband, her in-laws, police departments, lawyers, judges, political leaders, goons, social workers, media houses, and every bit is real. All these were incidents that I had read in papers, seen in the news, heard from near and dear ones. And then I weaved them into the texture of Meera’s life, in ‘The Bridal Pyre: Nainam Dahati Pawakah’.

Grab your copy of ‘The Bridal Pyre: Nainam Dahati Pawakah’ today to know how Meera fought back, how she strived to bring justice to her side, or whether she got it at all. This is not a Bollywood movie where the end is always happy, this is not a Shakespearean play where the end is always tragic. ‘The Bridal Pyre’ is life, and what turns life will take, we can only guess.

‘The Bridal Pyre’ is available here.

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  1. The Game

    According to NCRB Data, there were 2,22,091 arrests related to 498A in 2013 alone. A man is arrested every 3 minutes for dowry – 98% cases are false.

    From 2005 to 2008, as many as 22,000 men have ended their lives in reverse dowry harassment after allegedly being tormented by their wives. In contrast, dowry harassment has driven 6,800 women to suicide.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Harassed-over-dowry-men-demand-fair-play/articleshow/5241108.cms

    Since the media is bigoted and biased, it shows women as dowry victims whereas more than 3 times as many men commit suicide due to harassment from wives. The number of men victims of 498A alone outweigh all crimes against women.

    Men are not seen as human beings in society, that is why we never talk about the biases that men face on a daily basis, women usurp half of men’s properties during divorces, courts give men stricter sentences for the same crimes that women commit, juries give verdicts against men in domestic disputes, women usurp half of men’s properties in divorce, men give alimony to women, misandry in the media, sexism against men, domestic violence against men, how men are locked up in false cases of rape, dowry, and domestic abuse, more than 3 times as many men die due to dowry harassment from women, domestic violence statistics do not take into account verbal and psychological abuse that men suffer from at the hands of their wives, yet we talk about violence being a woman’s issue.

    A man is assaulted by his wife/girlfriend every 14.6 seconds.

    http://www.chowrangi.pk/domestic-violence-against-men.html

    When husbands are victims of domestic violence

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/man-woman/When-husbands-are-victims-of-domestic-violence/articleshow/26031858.cms

    Why are so many MEN becoming victims of domestic violence?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2518434/Why-MEN-victims-domestic-violence-Its-Britains-remaining-taboos-abuse-men-home-rise.html

    A Hidden Crime: Domestic Violence Against Men Is a Growing Problem

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/01/30/a-hidden-crime-domestic-violence-against-men-is-a-growing-probl/

    Women More Likely to Commit Domestic Violence, Studies Show

    http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/19133-women-more-likely-to-commit-domestic-violence-studies-show

    Male domestic abuse victim: men are scared to come forward

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/30303405/male-domestic-abuse-victim-men-are-scared-to-come-forward

    1. Neil

      Only if you had read the book you would have known that the story deal with dowry problems as well as false dowry cases are also pointed out. But you were so strong under the guise of ur false username that u had to take it as offensive. I am a man and I accept loud and clear that dowry problem exist in this country. If you say it does, perhaps you have never stepped down ur cradle and seen the real world. Because I have read the book I can say it is not a blind feminist
      book. And not at all hate the man, kill the man kind of story. Better read what you are spreading the hate about , else you fill just lose the game, mr. the game

  2. Daredevil

    Men constitute of the majority of suicides, majority of war deaths, majority of the homeless and unemployed, have less access to healthcare hence live ten years less than women on average, are subject to harsher punishments than women for the same crimes, also suffer from rape and DV but are not given support or protection under the law, are subject to mandatory conscription, biased family courts which throw unemployed men in jail for not paying alimony, are subject to mandatory arrest laws, are subject to no evidence laws, even when innocent and are now a minority in college education. Do women actually care about men as a gender? No. Yet there are hundreds of men out there fighting for “women’s rights” when men actually have less “rights” as such.

    1. Meera

      So are you trying to say dowry doesn’t exist in India anymore? Is that what you are trying to say? The dude who is hiding under a false name shows how courageous you are, because when u have to speak ur mind u have to take shelter under a false name.

  3. The Game

    The part in quotation marks….you must be kidding me. Looks like getting a broken bone fixed must be like drinking cough syrup. The reality is, broken bones are always fixed under anesthesia, and if for some reason it is performed without anesthesia, there are no words to describe how excruciatingly painful and horrifying it can be. And you have highlighted it to degrade men! Yeah sure, no problem, just getting a broken bone fixed.

    1. Meera

      I had gotten a broken bone fixed in my full senses. Any more questions? and I am not hiding my identity under a false name. Have any further queries? write to me at reachoutmeera@gmail.com

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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.

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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.

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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
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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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