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Treating Sex Like A Time Bomb Isn’t Helping Anyone

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By Halima Bello Husseini:

From the age of 10, it becomes virtually impossible for someone to not have a discussion exploring the most primal and essential of human acts. Sex. Yet, there is no topic which is as sinfully delightful, scandalous and full of taboos like sex. Most people never discuss sex openly over dinner. No matter how many times the word ‘sex’ comes to our mouths, we (especially those of us under 25) are still riding the wave with no real knowledge or guidance. Therefore, when I was given a radio production assignment at Apeejay Stya University, I spoke about it.

We had our friends from the University on the radio production as our guests, consisting of students from different countries. The eldest amongst us, was a master’s student from Nigeria. India was the first country she had visited. The other two members of our group were also from Nigeria, but came from diplomatic families. It meant that they didn’t grow up in the Nigerian milieu. They both brought a variety of social and cultural awareness from their experiences in the west, Scandinavian countries, middle east, as well as other African nations like Zimbabwe and Sudan. I come from a traditional Nigerian family, and due to my father’s diplomatic status – have had the opportunity to live in four different countries. My co-anchor was from India, who had been born and brought up in Mumbai and had roots in Andhra Pradesh.


My gang of eager talkers on sex, found our way to the area outside the auditorium. We sat on the lush grass in the midst of a busy day. We could hear the distant sounds of the noises from the road behind us. My co-anchor and I started the discussion by casually asking what they thought about sex. The common answer to this was the understanding that sex is an intimate act between consenting individuals. It is not supposed to be shunned or hidden because the cycle of life cannot be complete without sex.

As everyone started conversing more, we started talking about sex education. Most of us never thought about sex education in school. It was a conversation which always took place behind closed doors. For the students from countries outside India, talking about sex meant learning and figuring out why it was something so coveted. They discussed and shared stories of experiences. The diversity in our group, helped us understand that sex and sex education were treated differently in different societies. While some were openly honest about sex, others were not. For the students in India – sex was and continues to remain taboo.

I couldn’t understand why talking about sex in detail, or being curious about it was not ‘normal’. No matter how close individuals were to each other, it was uncomfortable to talk about it. Such a mentality, of sex being discussed in hushed tones was shocking for me. I instantly opposed such a mentality. I had personally spoken about sex with other young students from India. I knew this couldn’t be the full picture. However, it cannot be denied that the ones who openly have a conversation about sex are always considered the ‘immoral’ ones. Sections of the young population in India who are interested in freely discussing about sex, do not represent the majority.

A master’s student in the group, shared one instance in which sex became a major issue at our University. In bioscience, understanding reproduction and all its sub elements is a fundamental part. There was one paper in the subject on the mechanics of human sex. Several parents protested against the paper, forcing the University to eliminate this topic entirely from the curriculum.

This revelation shifted the course of the conversation. Sex is not a subject to be taken lightly as it consists of many psychological, emotional and physical factors. Treating it like a time-bomb hasn’t really helped anyone. Primordial ways cannot continue to govern something as indispensable as sex and sexuality. Today, we live in a world where sex and sexuality are at the forefront. One of the most effective ways to combat the confusions and issues surrounding these is to educate. Sex education is necessary as it involves talking about subjects like sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, population control, gender equality, respect within genders, and respect within a relationship. However, it is important to understand that sex education shouldn’t just be a conversation on ‘birds and bees’. A detailed and less clinical approach needs to be taken in order to educate and empower young adults. Frank Zappa said, “If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.” Expressing the need to acquire a knowledge of sex, not just the act. Our discussion was not aired, but it made my friends and I realise that we all must be a part of this fight for sex education.


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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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