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Valentine’s Curse: How Come There Is No ‘Moral Police’ When A Woman Is Assaulted?

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India Valentines Day Protest
Image Credit: AP/Altaf Qadri.

The D-day is fast approaching. The day equally loved and loathed by us Indians is just around the corner. Yes, I am talking about the most awaited Valentine’s Day. It’s that one day in the year when the self-proclaimed protectors of the ‘Indian Culture’ spring into action. On one hand, there are couples preparing to rejoice and celebrate the one day dedicated to love. On the other hand, the ‘moral police’ has taken the task upon themselves to punish anyone and everyone who gets swayed by the ‘Western propaganda’ of destroying Indian values and ethos.

Just a few days back, I too was excited about the prospect of a holiday wherein I can watch movies, eat and pamper and be pampered by the special someone, guilt free. That’s when I found out about what happens when young couples are caught by these political parties with the frivolous motive of shaming love. Couples may be beaten and humiliated, and made to call their own parents to confess of their ‘sins’ or, in some cases, to marry each other. In some reports that surfaced last year, women were assaulted and men were beaten mercilessly. All this in the name of our country’s heritage?

When has my country asked me to prove my devotion and patriotism by shaming the purest of feelings? What can these people possibly achieve by humiliating people who act on their own feelings and by mutual consent? How come this ‘moral police’ is nowhere to be found when women are assaulted, raped and beaten for dowry on a daily basis? Is it because, apparently, these acts are not in violation of our nation’s pride and heritage? Why do these people choose to be offended by love and lust but look away from the crimes that happen under their nose every day? Some of these are committed by themselves under the garb of national welfare.

The only thing I want to be worried about on Valentine’s Day is whether the card made by me is good enough, or where should we go out to eat or what I should wear! Or maybe act like it’s just another date on the calendar! What I shouldn’t be bothered about is, “what if they caught us, what will they do to us?” This day is accused of causing “incitement to adolescents to act on their immoral urges.” What defines ‘immoral’ anyways? An individual’s lifestyle is his or her own choice.

This is the land where the criminalisation of marital rape is still being debated, but consensually acting on one’s own urges prior to marriage is considered a sin. Isn’t that hypocrisy? And why should the country with an ever increasing population, the land of Kama Sutra, pretend like lust is a concept brought to us from ‘West’? The land where the union of Radha and Krishna (non-marital union) is worshipped shows a passive aggressiveness to love and intimacy? While it is justified to have personal opinions in favour or against public display of affection, but punishing them for the same is downright wrong.

And moreover, if it is indeed the ‘Westernisation’ that bothers the ‘moral police’ so much, why is the celebration of parents day, father’s day, mother’s day etc. allowed? If I may remind them, democracy is also concept inspired by the ‘West’. While everyone is entitled to having one’s own individual opinion, coercing someone else to have the same opinion and punishing them if they don’t agree with it is not justified. And when carried out actively by political parties and the police, it is a matter of shame for our country.

Renaming Valentine’s Day as ‘Matru-Pitru Diwas‘, and forcing us to celebrate it that way is an infringement on an individual’s rights and privacy. It is my belief that parents should be respected and worshipped every day; I still touch their feet every morning before bowing to God. But that in no way justifies the act of the ‘moral police’ who, ironically,  have a wrong and skewed perception of morality.

The only problem one should have with Valentine’s Day is the fact that there is only one day dedicated to love. Thanks to certain godmen and protectors of Indian (oops! Bharatiya) culture, my plans for 14th February are not certain. But it doesn’t matter because I am going to celebrate love every day anyway.

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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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