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Let’s Talk About Sex Baby…And Sexuality, LGBT, Gender And More: DU’s New FAQ Booklets

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By Sakshi Jain

The model of Indian education has evolved over the last few decades with the introduction of a wide array of subjects enhancing the youth’s knowledge spectrum. However, the most sensitive issue of gender and sexuality has always escaped its attention. This issue has always been considered to be a myth and too ignominious to be talked about in our society. One of the reasons why insensitive activities pertaining to gender and sexuality are on the rise is because our education system fails to recognize these sensitive issues. They have been considered a blot to our culture and have been the reason for upholding the deeply patriarchal structure in our society, evident through our Culture Minister’s statement“Night outs by girls is against Indian culture”.

gender studies group delhi university

In light of this scenario, Gender Studies Group of Delhi University (an independent, non-funded, University-wide student group committed to reading, writing and thinking about gender) have made concerted efforts to reduce this gap in knowledge and initiate measures to alleviate the problems associated with this gap. The members of the Group recently launched four FAQ booklets on the topics – The Body, Sexual Minorities, Sexual Harassment as well as Accommodation in and around the University.

Objectives Of The Launch

The booklets have been launched targeting college students who bear the brunt of being oblivious to such issues. The booklet on Hostel Accommodation, for instance, talks about the issue of restrictive rules and regulations for students, especially women. The booklets aim to apprise and caution students about the possible kinds of harassment and abuse that can happen in the hostels and the other places of shelter. Additionally, they provide information to students about ways to organise collective protests against moral policing, restrictive gender biased rules for students as well as any form of harassment in the hostels. Aapurv Jain of the Gender Studies Group says, “Through these booklets, we wish to make an attempt to dispel myths, dissolve ignorance and create a culture in which sexual violence and exploitation have zero tolerance and to encourage a healthy culture regarding sexuality.”

Through the launch of these booklets, they also plan to inform the students about ways of being part of this curriculum and acquaint them about their rights and prevalent social conditions in the University pertaining to the specific issue of sexual harassment policy. They emphasise on the need to open egalitarian spaces in educational institutions, and for accurate sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) related information for young people so that they can easily navigate gender and sexuality issues.

Promotion Of The Launch

Pinjra Tod, a recent campaign launched by the student activists from different colleges and universities against sexist rules in women’s hostels, particularly those that disallow women from staying out late will involve the use of these booklets to disseminate the idea of gender and sexuality sensitization.

A workshop on gender and sexuality was organised by the group wherein a humorous anecdote was used a tool for shedding light upon the sensitive issue of gender and sexuality. A short film by “Must Bol” that showed how society demands strict adherence to hyper-masculine aesthetics for men and alternate masculinities are often ridiculed and sidelined was also screened for this purpose. Other ways of promoting the booklets included games for college students wherein they were introduced to the problem of societal stereotypes regarding gender and sexuality, and interactive sessions. The booklets, in order to expand their reach, come at nominal prices and have comprehensive descriptions.

The initiative by the Gender Studies Group is a good start to counter the existing system of educational institutions that operate on patriarchal terms. However, whether this will reach the level of implementation is questionable considering the deeply entrenched patriarchal norms in our society that gives the academic spaces the authority to impose restrictive regulations for women students by using the diatribe of safety and regulation as most women colleges in Delhi University do impose restrictions on mobility of hostellers in the name of security and safety.

A recent example in the University that sheds light on the feasibility of implementation of such initiatives is the allegation of two girls associated with the Pinjra Tod campaign who were threatened by a member of students’ political outfit ABVP with sexual harassment for putting up posters on top of those of ABVP on the ‘Wall of Democracy’ at North Campus, Delhi University. Their posters were also ripped off. Such instances shake the foundation of setting in new waves of change pertaining to sensitivity towards gender and sexuality issues.

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  1. true voice

    Totally unwarranted headline. “Talking sex” doesn’t suit a serious discussion on gender studies

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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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