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We Need To Talk About Our Obsession With ‘Stable Marriages’

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By Sudha Shashwati:

Indians love weddings. We love marriages. We love big fat weddings and marriages that last a lifetime. We also hate complaints about dissatisfaction in marriages, and we absolutely abhor divorce. Majorly, the women. We have no patience with the present generation that treats marriage as something they can get out of and believes that ‘romance’ and ‘autonomy’ are important parts of a marriage. They are misguided, we say, and can only be saved by going through the route of arranged marriage. If you don’t like where you are, you work at feeling better and not planning to get out.

As a culture, we take a lot of pride in our stable marriages. People sticking it out in marriages, (most often for the sake of their children) no matter how miserable they are with each other; the number of years for which the relationship lasts means far more than the quality of relationship. We are highly disapproving of the apparent ease with which the present generation can and does get out of marriages. We lament it as a bad influence from the west. What we don’t seem to recognise is the fact that there can be bad marriages too! There’s a limit to how much you can achieve by having great intentions and trying to adjust. Everyone cannot be healed or changed. And every relationship cannot be salvaged. In fact, toxic relationships can be extremely damaging to people’s mental health, especially that of children. So, having options other than staying put in an abusive marriage is actually a lifesaver and needs to be given due credit.

It is true that there are marriages that break up in a matter of days or weeks for the most frivolous of reasons and people are right when they say that such cases are more of a recent phenomenon. During my internship in a family court in Mumbai, I came across several cases in which I sadly noticed that people don’t take marriage as seriously as it deserves to be taken. Cases that made me lament the fact that marriages are not considered sacrosanct anymore. Yet, I also came across cases of marriage fraught with all sorts of abuse. It made me glad that the sanctity of marriage is not absolute. It made me thank god for divorce.

It is said that the best legacy that parents can leave their children with, is their happiness. Whether you fight or choose to keep it all brushed under the carpet, children are perceptive and the impact of marital discord on children’s health development is huge! Often, children pick up similar behavioural patterns, have more adjustment problems and may show a variety of internalised and externalised problems that may last well into adulthood*. If not for anything else, the child in question is going to have no role models for a healthy relationship and may grow up believing that what happens in his family is the way relationships play out everywhere. Contrary to what we may like to believe, it’s better to get out of an abusive relationship than staying put and roughing it out.

You don’t deserve a medal simply for staying in a relationship for life! We need to talk about the quality of that relationship first. Yes, all relationships have their ups and downs-every marriage entails hard work. But there’s a difference between putting an effort into one’s relationship to keep it healthy, and tolerating abuse simply for the survival of the relationship.

I read this harrowing, yet inspirational story from Humans of Amsterdam, which made me want to write this post in the first place. It’s the story of an Indian woman Haritha, working in Amsterdam. She had a history of emotional abuse in her marriage and was looking for divorce:

I had goosebumps while I read this woman’s story, and couldn’t help but think about the plight of women who are not as educated or have the financial means to actually get away from a rotten marriage. Why lay so much emphasis on staying together when the life of the relationship has been sucked out already? Why are we so tolerant of abuse?Why do we think that a relationship can get back to normal after a series of abuse and no measures being taken by the couple to process it and by the perpetrator to get help for it? Why make it so difficult to get out of a dead relationship? Is ‘not incurring society’s wrath’ such a worthy goal that we as parents are ready to sacrifice our children’s happiness for it? Also, why are such archaic laws still in place that require the signature of husband/father on documents? Doesn’t it help keep domestic violence alive? Are we so obsessed with marriage and maintaining patriarchy that we don’t care about our women’s safety, let alone their well-being?

Of course, we don’t care about women’s safety. We still don’t recognise marital rape. We truly have a long, long way to go before we can claim to treat our women fairly. Happy Dussehra folks! And more power to women like Haritha who are an inspiration to women everywhere, and the true manifestation of goddess Durga.

* Jenkins, J.M., & Smith, M.A. (1991). Marital Disharmony And Children’s Behaviour Problems: Aspects Of A Poor Marriage That Affect Children.


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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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