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We Asked You How India Treats Women And Here’s What You Said

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By Lipi Mehta

One of the starkest observations of growing up in India is seeing how differently young girls and young boys are treated. Not just in our behaviours, but in our language and even in the way we think. Girls are told to be more ‘careful’ while doing everyday things like going to the marketplace or deciding what to wear. They are perceived as liabilities, as burdens and often, are brought up to be “married off”.

Moreover, in thousands of households across India, girls are unwanted. The phenomenon of son preference in India sees an ugly manifestation in this as well. To fight the decades of patriarchy that is at the root of this thinking, we need to make girls count as much as anyone else.

We asked our audience some carefully worded questions to gauge how they feel about the issue. Here are the responses we received.

Are women really safe in public places?

are women safe in public spaces

53% said no.

12% said yes, if men behave.

35% gave vague responses, asking if men are safe, how we need to rid ourselves of the paranoia and so on.

Whether it be a marketplace, park or railway station, men and women should ideally have equal and safe right to public places. However, this is not the case in India and a majority of the responders agreed with that. What was interesting was that a few responders said that women can be safe in public places if men behave, which means that for them, there is a clearly established connection between women’s safety and men’s behaviours.

Do you think women need to be kept safe?

do women need to be kept safe

21% had a problem with using the words ‘kept safe’.

16% asked why men were not included in the question. Don’t they need to be safe too?

The rest of the answers were a mix of sentiments: Some felt that more men or ‘unruly elements’ needed to be kept under control rather than keeping women safe, and some felt that as “not all situations are same”, they need to be trained to be stronger physically and mentally.

We had asked this question for a reason and we are glad many responders had a problem with the words ‘kept safe’. A few of them pointed out that using these words ‘commodifies’ the woman, like you would ‘keep safe’ a piece of jewellery or something else. We saw a similar sentiment as we did with the previous question where many responses suggested there was a direct connection drawn between women’s safety and men’s behaviours. It reinforced how women’s safety in India is interlinked with various factors, men being one of them.

How late is too late to be out?

how late is too late to come home

50% gave varied answers, ranging from 6 pm to midnight.

50% expressed themselves asking what is wrong in parents or anyone else worrying about the safety of their children. One of them said that asking girls to come home on time is “not asking for too much”.

We saw an interesting mix of responders for this question. Half of them were girls and half of them were parents or guardians. While the girls mentioned the times they are told to be back home, none of the parents mentioned a time but expressed other sentiments, such as how it is natural for parents to worry. Both acknowledged how society is generally unsafe for girls and one of the responders even asked a hypothetical question: If parents had to send a child to the market at 9 pm, would they send their son or daughter?

Do you think society is safer for one gender than the other?

is society safer for one gender than the other

This was the question that evoked the most number of disturbing responses. One or two people said either yes or no, and one person said it is not safe for all genders.

There was a slew of responses that spoke about how most rape charges in India are false, how women are ‘manipulating’ and how women blame men for everything because they can’t do anything else. It was shocking to see this kind of backlash for a question the answer to which could have been pretty one-directional.

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This entire exercise reinforced why we need to make girls count even more and why our responses towards patriarchy and son preference need to be much more powerful. Take a stand and let the Prime Minister of India know that you want a change in the policies, schemes, provisions, government resolutions that contribute to son preference and discrimination against girls.

Make your voice heard here.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    Are men safe from fake dowry allegations, false rape cases, fabricated charges of domestic violence, lies about molestation and sexual harassment? Are men safe from having their career, job, dignity, honour destroyed through a false charge? Are men safe from a divorce where they have to spend their life savings in alimony and/or child support. Are men safe from having to part with half of their property in case of a seperation? Are men safe from a lifetime of financial slavery called marriage? Are men safe from the psychological abuse perpetrated by wives, and their nags and taunts?

    1. Tapojay

      Yes agreed….but when the mothers and daughters of a country find themselves victimized we need to think over the societal norms which prevent them to lead a life of their own

  2. Nikita Virani

    Watch this video you will get answer to all your questions

    https://youtu.be/C5l5pGR1SCI

    Click on the link above to watch video

  3. Prerna Negi

    The society we live in today girls are told their limit at a very tender age..like u should do this nd not this after all you are a girl.Why not boys told how to mend their ways .IMHO if boys are told how to respect a girl .We talk about equality for girls in every field or any job u can say …can never be achieved unless and until we consider them equal from our minds where the control lies.Stop judging the people especially girls on the basis of what she wears,or her interests .

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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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