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In India, You Steal A Woman’s Freedom For A Man’s Liberty And Call It ‘Safety’

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Submitted anonymously: 

“Hamare yahan ghadi ki sui character decide karti hai.”
(“In our country, the character of a woman is decided by what time she comes home.” – A dialogue from the film “Pink”)

This is about the college that boasts about organising ‘Central India’s Largest Technical Festival’. I am sure the following must be the experience of most students (girls) in Indian colleges.

Every college has a hostel in-time for girls. In our college, the in-time for girls is 9 p.m., and if you are late by even five minutes, the college authorities get involved. God help you if you are late by an hour. No one knows what’ll happen then because no one has been brave enough to try and pull off that stunt. And what about the boys, you ask? They don’t have an in-time, silly! They can access the reading room of the library 24×7 and study in peace, whereas girls can’t, although both the sexes pay the same fees.

Night outs are a complete no-no unless your parents are with you. Not even your relatives or your siblings can take you for night outs even if they show legal proof of your relationship with them! When you are going for a night out, your parents have to pick up and drop you at your hostel.

And when we are finally leaving for our homes, we need to fill out a register. And that’s not a problem at all. The problem arises when our parents are asked to message the wardens about our leaving the hostel with complete details of our travel (including the PNR number of our tickets).

And here’s one more example. Holi is the time when the whole of India enjoys with their friends and relatives. Most colleges have this tradition where hostel students play Holi together and even go to their professors’ houses to celebrate the festival with them. That has been the sweetest memory of my childhood as I remember college students coming in groups to our house and celebrating Holi with us. Does that happen in this totally orthodox college in Maharashtra? Of course not!

Girls are locked, and I mean literally locked inside their hostels for one whole day. For going to the mess, which is outside the hostel and located at a walking distance of hardly 2 minutes, they have to be accompanied by the guards who lock the mess too, as soon as the girls walk inside. Why? Because boys might get drunk and harass us. So, what’s the solution? Lock the girls and let the boys enjoy!

Coming to events. We do get an in-time extension up to 10:30 p.m. maximum! Yay! But guess what? You have to remain inside the auditorium during the entire duration of the event. You step out of the auditorium even to drink water, and you are grounded. If you are spotted with a guy friend, you are grounded.

The big question is, why? Why do we have such stringent rules? And the boys do not? Why has no one ever questioned this rule? And even if they have questioned it, why hasn’t there been a change? Our campus is quite large with security guards posted at every nook and corner of the campus. If they can’t provide us with ‘protection’ from our own peers, how can we expect police forces to ‘protect’ the women of a country as large as India?

If the mentality is to steal a woman’s freedom for a man’s liberty and calling it ‘safety’ even in a reputed government institution, where authorities are expected to be logical, then of course, every time there is a sexual harassment case in India, the mentality of the majority of the population will be to blame the girl for not keeping her safety in mind while stepping out of her house.

We talk about achieving country’s goals, such as ‘Women Empowerment’ and ‘Equality’. But the question is, when? I ask Mr. Modi, when will ‘Achche Din’ come so that colleges can finally allow an 18+ girl to actually live her life?

Image source: Pinjra Tod: Break The Hostel Locks/Facebook

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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