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5 Things That Indian Schools Should Do To Support LGBTQ Students

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CREAEditor's Note: With #QueerWithoutFear, Youth Ki Awaaz and CREA have joined hands to advocate for safer and more inclusive campuses for LGBTQ+ students and break the silence around the discrimination faced by students who identify as queer. If your college or school has an LGBTQ+ support group, a campus queer collective, or an initiative that’s pushing for a safer campus, share your story!

By Shambhavi Saxena for Cake:

Editor’s note: Over 92% of women in India experience some form of harassment, yet, we hesitate to speak up. To help create safe spaces for conversations around these experiences, Youth Ki Awaaz and Breakthrough India have come together to encourage more individuals to speak out and support one another. The piece below is a part of this collaboration. We ask people everywhere to come, #StandWithMe.


Becoming comfortable with your identity as an LGBTQ person isn’t always easy. And in India, where guilt, shame and secrecy surround any mention of sexuality, it can be especially difficult. Today, I say I’m comfortable in my queerness, but to get here, I had to wade through years of low confidence, self-doubt, and anxieties about not ‘fitting in’.

It was in school that I first became aware of the cisgender-heterosexual matrix. It started with the baffling experience of a classmate teasing me about a boy. I began to learn the unspoken rules of my teenage life courtesy of my peers:

1. If you’re a girl you’re supposed to like boys, and even when you deny it – especially when you deny it! – it has to be true.

2. If you’re thirteen and still haven’t started dating a person of the opposite sex, you’re a loser. Your personal development – nay, your reputation – depended on it.

And finally,

3. You can’t date somebody and not have sex. And if you don’t, at least lie about it so people don’t think you’re ‘uncool.’ (Because uninformed teenagers getting peer-pressured into sex is so much win. Not.)

Allowing myself to be different wasn’t in the playbook, and the trade off for fitting in was denying my queerness. Now, I could wax eloquent about how our differences make us who we are, but that’s about as useful as those inspirational quotes during morning assembly. What I could’ve really used back then (and what a lot of queer kids still require even today) was for my school, my teachers, and my peers to care a little more, to take actual measures to be inclusive of LGBTQ people. How? Well, here’s a few suggestions from Yours Queerly:

1. Re-Evaluate Learning Material

Our earliest interactions with literature contain so many gender stereotypes about moms in kitchens and dads building things and little girls with long hair, and boys playing only sports. Even our word problems in math are delivered using the gender binary. But gender isn’t a binary, so it’s time our textbooks reflected that. Seize the opportunity in English grammar classes to teach us about the singular ‘they’ and respecting people’s pronouns. Include novels and essays about non-normative identities as part of our syllabi. Talk about the LGBTQ movement and its prominent figures in History and Political Science classes. Maybe even consider adding a Gender Education course for students in Senior Secondary.

2. Sex Education Revolution, Now!

Many of us are sexually active in our early teens. And that’s perfectly healthy. But even though we like to think we’re Masters of Sex, we know diddly-squat. Teach us about our bodies, teach us about consent, teach us about contraception, and about the power politics in sex. Teach us about homosexuality, and trans identities. Teach us about asexuality, and how not having sex is also normal. Give us the knowledge we need to stay safe, and do not shame us with morality, or religion, or just prudishness in general. And please let go of the idea that we will turn the bio lab into a BDSM sex dungeon just because we know what condoms look like now.

3. Make Sure The School Counsellor Is An LGBTQ Ally

While the first two measures are going to exponentially increase awareness and sensitivity among our peer groups, LGBTQ students still carry the weight of being an underrepresented and marginalised social group. I mean, even the law thinks of us as criminals. And how social stigma affects the mental health of queer kids desperately needs attention. I can’t speak for all schools, but mine had a counsellor I wouldn’t dare approach about anything, leave alone questions about my identity. So when you’re hiring for the position, make sure they’re up to speed with queer politics, and openly identify as an ally to the movement. And if you already have a counsellor, make sure they undergo training that equips them to help us out.

4. Take A Class On The Violence Of Language

‘Fag,’ ‘chhakka,’ ‘bhenchod,’ ‘sissy,’ ‘dyke,’ ‘prude,’ ‘slut,’ ‘gay’ – you may think your child or your students are angels sent from heaven, but school kids live on a staple of these words every day, and some of them take a lot of pride in being able to foul-mouth somebody who looks or behaves ‘differently’ than they do. This is extremely damaging for gender and sexual minority students. I’m not saying clamp down on the words that kids use (this is guaranteed to make them do it more aggressively behind authority’s back). Instead, walk them through the history of these words, what they mean, and what harm they do. Give them the knowledge to decide for themselves whether they want to participate in an inclusive environment, or indirectly contribute towards violence against their own LGBTQ classmates. Help students realise how their actions affect others.

5. Introduce A Queer Cell

Tagore International, Vasant Vihar is the only school in Delhi that has one of these – called Breaking Barriers – and they are all the better for it. Having a Gender and Sexual Minorities group in every campus across India isn’t just symbolic of a willingness to be inclusive, it also helps implement the four suggestions mentioned above. You will actually have a body that works out the logistics of it all, and can even work on collaborative projects with similar bodies and students in other campuses. Networking, folks! Let’s get networking!

India is a country with the highest number of youth population in the world, so ‘starting with the kids’ is an important strategy in instituting social change on a large scale. In the past, we’ve used this line of thinking for how youth will affect the economy, politics and the environment. It’s high time we approached LGBTQ inclusion the same way.


If you’d like to share your own experiences – from dealing with everyday sexism and gender stereotyping, to period shaming, harassment and abuse, do share your stories using #StandWithMe, and help take this important conversation forward.


This article was originally published here on Cake.

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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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