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Is It A Good Idea To Be In A Live-In Relationship Before You Marry Your Partner?

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By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for Youth Ki Awaaz:

Hello, my lovelies! It’s almost the long weekend, so I hope you have special plans, even if they involve nothing more than binge-watching television and eating a lot of junk food. Here’s some feminism for the road.

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[su_highlight background=”#fa0f46″ color=”#ffffff”]R asked:[/su_highlight]

What is your opinion about living together and dating… and marrying the same person if you like him based on the experience with him in those days?

Dear R,

This question is almost prescient, because I was pondering this just the other day. How many people I know of who move straight from their family home into their in-laws’ homes. In most cases, it works out, because y’know, we’re Indian, we’re used to large families, we “adjust” as they say. Sometimes, you graduate to calling your in-laws “mom” and “dad” like your spouse does, oftener, especially in very new marriages, you’ve been so used to saying, “aunty” and “uncle” that that’s what you say, until you feel less shy.

But the thing is, no matter how much you call them “mom” and “dad”, the adjusting period is a difficult one, because, let’s face it: these are not your parents. Your parents are used to you, your sometimes slobbishness, your favourite foods, your need for absolute silence when you first wake up in the morning. Your parents don’t feel bad if you tell them you won’t join them for dinner, because hey, that’s what you do sometimes. You’d rather sit in your room with a tray in front of the TV. But you’ve spent so long being nice to your partner’s parents, it’s hard to suddenly turn them into “family”, take them a little bit for granted like you do your own, just chill in shorts in the living room without feeling guilty about it. On their side, they might be a bit nervous about you too—does she expect us to be “on” all the time? Does she not like us because she’s not eating with us? Does she not realise that by cancelling on this family event she’s making us feel bad? (I’m using “she” because usually the wife moves in with the husband, but feel free to substitute gender if you live the other way.)

Then there are people who date for a long time, get married and then suddenly have to share a house. It gets harder as you get older. You get more set in your ways. Even if it’s just the two of you in your very own flat, you feel a little… shy, sometimes. Maybe a little let down. Is that all there is? Maybe you have your own rules, built up by years of living alone and they have theirs. It’s always a bit of a shock to the system, and yet, if you can make it past the first few months of tip-toeing around each other (or having one massive fight and then letting that relax the charged atmosphere), then you have a relationship that will endure.

Here’s my belief about living alone: everyone should do it. Especially if you live in a country like ours, where it’s okay, even encouraged to stay with your parents forever. Because if your whole life is your one bedroom with a big house you share with people who unconditionally love you and will do their best to make life smooth for you, then you’re not learning anything. “But I don’t want to learn,” you might say, “I’m perfectly happy with the way things are.” You probably are, too. I don’t blame you, but believe me when I say that you are missing out on a great opportunity to grow as a person. And that’s something you should constantly be doing, whether you’re twenty something or in your seventies. “But my parents will feel bad if I move out,” you’re arguing next. They might, it’s true. But the only way to improve your relationship with your parents is to have honest conversations with them. Let them know that your move has nothing to do with how much you love them, or how grateful you are to them, and everything to do with you learning a whole new skill set. Parents are all about learning new things, they’ll probably even encourage you to do it after you reason it like that.

Once you start living alone, I’m not going to lie, your sex life will change forever. You may not have all the sex in the world, but suddenly, waiting till everyone’s gone to bed, or going out of town whenever you can and so on and so forth will no longer be a factor. This is your house, and you get to have sex whenever and wherever you like. Your partner, if you have one, will become suddenly more intimate, because you get to see what he or she is like in the mornings, you get to spend whole weeks with them instead of a few snatched hours, you have arguments, you make up, you sleep next to them, all this adds up.

My suggestion is live alone-alone for a bit and then move in with your Person. Because that’s when you’ll have already figured out what you need and can look for a partner who matches you. Maybe you like cats and s/he’s a dog person. Maybe you love to eat out and s/he prefers to cook at home. All that stuff that’s important to figure out before a marriage and not after the deed is already done.

Once you’re past that, you can get past anything. By all means get married, if it’s important to you. But remember, you don’t have to. I never did, and I’ve been living with my partner for a good long while.


Aunty Feminist

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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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