This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nishtha Relan. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why My Paranoia And My Gender Go Hand In Hand

More from Nishtha Relan

By Nishtha Relan for Cake

I was at a guy-friend’s place in New Delhi, with his friends, when the paranoia first hit me. We were metaphorically high on good stuff and it was new for me to be an outsider in the company of unknown people in that state. My entire trip was a roller coaster of anxiety, and then I thought I heard someone say, “Man she’s got a rape-face!” as he looked at me, amused. A casual statement like that triggered in me a paranoia that knocked my breath out and left me feeling like I was going to be preyed upon by the men there. That’s what I remember from that day – a sense of humiliation at being seen terrified of something that does terrify me no end – the imminent, omnipresent threat of physical, sexual violence in its crudest form.

F83A0ABC69

My first and the most hard-hitting thoughts during a trip would generally revolve around being irrationally uncertain of the intentions of the men I happened to be getting baked with, however familiar I was with them – quite natural, considering the brutally misogynistic space we live in. But the paranoia got worse. I remember freaking out, tripping with my boyfriend once, when I heard some footsteps stop outside the door, followed by the sounds of pictures being taken on a mobile phone. This anxiety eventually seeped into my daily life.

Consequently, I would feel acutely aware of the threat of violence and hatred in the most ordinary of things. While visiting my partner’s place, I noticed a perceptible shift in the gaze and the mannerisms of his neighbours over a period of a few months – whether it was a group of men whispering in Hindi, “It’s the bed mate!” or the nearby chemist once smirking and asking if I needed i-pill that day. I remember breaking down and wanting to leave everything behind in Delhi at that point of time.

Talking to my flatmate, I realised I am not alone I this. It’s the paranoia that haunts us after having seen two of our close friends go through shocking instances of sexual harassment in the lanes of Vijay Nagar, the part of Delhi I live in. My flatmate and I would wake up with terrible nightmares around that time, but I never had to ask her what it was she had dreamt; there was a silent acceptance of the terror we were both dealing with. Any sound or stray footsteps outside our flat, and we would both sit up, having already talked about the objects we would use to hit an intruder if we had to. Yet another night, while talking of getting a lock for the fence outside our door was when I could finally validate this paranoia, in her presence.

I live in a perpetual fear of something terrible happening, whether it’s the fear of being targeted with water balloons during the festival of Holi, or the fear of being raped or killed, when outside after the evening hours. There’s a fear of walking on the streets and being noticed by men as I adjust the neckline of my clothes. There is a fear of abortion of a foetus conceived without consent that wakes me up from my sleep in cold sweat. But there is so much more that cannot be written down. And I know that most women have felt this fear, in one form or the other.

We live such gendered lives! So much of what I live through, experience, think, and want is, in direct as well as in very complex, intricate ways, dictated to me by my gender AND my sex. I face the consequences of being a woman AND having a female’s body every living second, and how! I have been living like this for so long, but only after experiencing that paranoia, could I begin to comprehend how exhausting it is to live with this gender, despite the privileges I enjoy. Being a cisgender woman, I cannot even begin to imagine the kind of fears and anxieties that people of transgender or non-binary identities must have to face!

It is so important to raise our voices against this discrimination. It is important to talk about the intensity of what women feel because of certain gestures that some people find insignificant or funny. A lot of general anxiety that the individuals of under-privileged genders suffer from is often triggered by the inherent violence and the sense of entitlement that some men exhibit and possess over the women’s bodies, which many a times dictates a huge chunk of women’s quality of living. Our mental health, to a huge extent, is defined by our genders, and the way the external world wants to claim and threaten our bodies.

These fears have been voiced by many before me. The threat of violation is very real for many women, and those in privileged positions need to know this. Many women are afraid of men, and are being called hysterical for it, and that is extremely problematic. Men need to recognise the privilege they have over women, and people need to understand how such dynamics work across class, caste, race and gender.

It is the invisible, insignificant, every-day problems and disparities that make up the lived experience of one-half of the people of the world. Wouldn’t it be wise to understand these signs and work at effectively addressing this issue with as much detail as we can?

This article was originally published here on Cake.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    My paranoia and gender also go hand in hand. I fear being falsely accused of rape, molestation, dowry, and domestic violence. I fear losing my life, career, job, family, dignity, honour as a result.

  2. Spider-Man

    Another fake story by an attention seeker spreading rape hysteria. Feminists have nothing better to do.

    1. Human

      Spider-Man, this is her experience. You cannot deny anybody the right to express what they have experienced. Your experience is probably different and there is space for you to share that.

    2. Susaant Menon

      You are certainly right that one cannot deny the right to express what they have experienced. But in same breath I can also say that no one has right to generalize their paranoia and make a propaganda of it by saying it (the paranoia) to be experience of entire group of individuals, and certainly not when that group makes half the population of the world; women that is…..

      This whole business of feminism, that says stereotyping or typecasting a gender is bad and they are for equality, smells much more badly than the strongest smell in the animal kingdom (skunk’s anal spray) of hypocrisy as well as bigotry, when they want to retain the right to stereotype a whole gender as criminal minded misogynists and their own gender as perpetual victims whose necessarily harbor some manufactured, but justified paranoia. It is complete diservice to the bold, fiesty. hard-working women who strive forward in their life and take up challenges in life as challenges should be without paranoia.

      Remember life is not all about individual pursuit of happiness, nor it is about complying to the group/society’s norms….It is somewhere in between. And for not being able to get oneself rid of paranoia of one’s own mind, no one has a right to try and normalize and generalize the paranoia by injecting into the collective psyche of their gender…… Imagine what will happen, if men start doing that. As I have experienced as a man and as a human being very similar experiences of millions of experiences of other men, the brutal inhuman torture at the hands of women, I can very well tell you that if men start doing the same thing as this woman and others are doing in the name of feminism, women’s paranoia would be put to shame…… So, please don’t (a request) generalize and support such crap in the name of individual freedom and rights.

  3. Monistaf

    Sounds like a case of irrational paranoia to me. Just because you are afraid, it does not necessarily mean that there is something to be afraid of. There are parts of your article that could be offensive to someone reading it, but you have every right to express your feelings. The question is whether you will afford that same privilege of freedom of expression in a public space to the people on the streets that you walk. The right to offend, goes both ways.

  4. Susaant Menon

    Miss or whatever your name is (not mentioning your name, as you might get fearful of me calling out your name on online forum and fear being accused of online harassment as well as getting a tag of potential rapist) – You need help…. And there are good psychiatric institutions in and around Delhi— Because if you are allowed to write stuff like this without getting proper treatment, you would endanger many more lives and relationships of both men and women than you think you are capable off…. This is not to say that I am asking for a ban on your writing. I am completely in sync positively with freedom of expression and other such ideas…….

    If you can think straight for a moment and read what you have written —- For example 1) Our mental health, to a huge extent, is defined by our genders —- Are you referring to only women here, or also Men by saying “our”……. Because if you meant men as well (50% of world population and population of Delhi included here, then what you said is very true……. But if you only thought of women, then definitely you are hallucinating, because you consider only women to be humans, and men to be some sort of aliens….. There is the first clue to your problem….. 2) Men need to recognize the privilege they have over women, and people need to understand how such dynamics work across class, caste, race and gender. —– If the statement 1) of yours as pointed above is true and you thought about Men in the “our” you mentioned there, then let me tell you, my story in short, which you wouldn’t believe, and yet I am surviving without paranoia, even 1 millionth of what you have expressed here. But I could have manufacture a paranoia and sold it like a victim of unimaginable torture in the hands of women like you and demand even the UNO to intervene…….And please be mindful, no brains had been given the right to say, that man’s paranoia is criminal wrongand a woman’s paranoia is real, so that everyone should work to relieve her off it, at least in the feminist world where they define themselves by the swear word of equality of gender….. I am just doing a selfless and thankless service to you by pointing that out. —

    My story echoing the story of counteless other men like me (and even women who happened to be our near and dear ones) if you are reading this by now — I married (aaranged), got separated with 5 days, broke my neck in a train accident, threatened with jail term, formalized separation within 1.5 months, got first contact from still (not divorced wife) by 3rd month of marriage, kept in touch and took her back by 9th month despite my parents objections, had to shift back from new job to Delhi to her parent’s house due to her torture within a year of marriage without job here, got a job, became a father of one of the smartest boy, had to endure the scene of my wife sexually exploiting my infant son just to get me annoyed, saw a middle aged neighbouring aunty poking my infant sons genital with stick for fun, was raped on more than 2 occasions by wife (yes, physically raped by strangulation, threatening using misuse of law and expletives that one cannot hear, much less tolerate), beaten, kicked, bitten occasionally, scratched almost daily, thrown out of house twice, threatened with suicide and murdering as well estrangement from my child, threatened with possibilty of adulterous behavior, forced to bu a house in joint name when I was not ready to due to finances, threatened with possibility of implicating my parents and brother, then finally the last few straws — Committing adultery and claiming it purposefully and trying to assault me with knife to make me physically harm her, which I didn’t, and forcefully took the child away from me, and in connivance with police fellows and her parents, threw me into jail (18 days), implicated my parents and brother as well (who were not even here)……..And now for 6 years, dragging the case, allienated my kid, bought 3 sets of my lawyers, got converted to a sect of Christianity which pays well for each conversion, threatened to baptise my son (convert him), living with another guy and her parents in the house I bought, filed multiple cases, destroyed my brother’s marriage, claimed in court premises that I would see my just small child to grow up to become rapist so that I can feel threatened, claimed that her God is more powerful than my God ……………

    Despite, all this, I haven’t even remotely started hating women for just for being women. I know it was not short, but I tried my level best….. Now, if u have read all this, do you think criminality has any gender and do you think men just live through their lives laughing all the moments of it and torturing women as if that’s why they are born…………. I don’t know you, but I can only write you to try and bring you down from your pedestal which you have created in the name of victimhood and justified paranoid illusions of being a women to a saner and much bright world…… A world which despite what I have gone through looks more positive than negative, and where cooperation and understanding between genders is required much more than blatant spreading of one sided paranoia to divide and conquer few grams of gold funded through funding agencies, which milk everyone for their selfish benefits…….

More from Nishtha Relan

Similar Posts

By Snigdha Gupta

By Sakshi Kotwal

By Shreya Shukla

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below