This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Vaishnavi Sundar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How My Campaign Led To A Partial Victory For Women’s Reproductive Rights In Tamil Nadu

More from Vaishnavi Sundar

After ten years of an unofficial ban in Tamil Nadu, the authorities at the Drugs Control Board take the first step.

In the month of September, I revived the conversation regarding the ban on Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs), which have remained unofficially banned in Tamil Nadu since 2005. This is despite the clear Guidelines for Administration of Emergency Contraceptive Pills by Health Care Providers released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in November 2008 that ECPs can be provided safely by a healthcare provider, such as doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, paramedics, family welfare assistants, health assistants and community-based health workers.

Along with the good folks at Jhatkaa, I was able to garner wider attention to this issue through an online petition. With over 2000 signatures supporting the petition to lift the ban on emergency contraceptive pills, we got in touch with S. Abdul Khader, Director of Drugs Control.

Emergency contraceptives have been a subject of intense debate for having become a matter of moral concern, rather than what it should be, a purely medical concern affecting sexually active women. After two months of email and telephonic exchanges, thanks to the petition, we finally have some good news! The Drug Control Director has written to us that “a proposal has been submitted to Drug Consultative Committee, to include the Levonorgestrol 0.75/1.5mg Tablets in S.№15 of Schedule K of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945, so that these Emergency Contraceptive Pills can be sold as over-the-counter drugs without the prescription of a Registered Medical Practitioner.”

This would mean that an emergency contraceptive pill (Levonorgestrol 0.75/1.5mg) can be purchased at a drugstore by anybody of a legal age, without a prescription from a doctor. One can only speculate over the enormity of this news considering how many women go through unnecessary, painful (and often unaffordable) abortions, keep getting pregnant against their will, or worse, are forced to keep a child born out of rape. This step, after ten years of an unofficial ban, is therefore very significant.

There is a lot of information online about the efficacy of ECPs, precautions to be taken and the side effects of the medicines. Providing women access to this information along with the medicines would make women in control of their choices without feeling infantilized where decisions are taken for them by men mostly. A moral ban on ECPs is merely a short-term fix for a larger problem of lack of sex and reproductive education in schools. To that effect, I am hoping to produce helpful videos explaining how ECPs work, with personal anecdotes from those who have used it and advice from medical practitioners.
Having said that, these are some of the most important things you need to know as a consumer of emergency contraceptive pills:

  • An emergency contraceptive pill (also known as the morning-after pill) is NOT an abortion pill. It should not be consumed regularly or used as an alternative to primary methods of birth control like condoms or regular birth control pills.

“The ‘morning-after pill’ should be used in emergencies only. It helps to prevent pregnancy if you have had unprotected sex or when your contraception has failed. You should not take it on a regular basis, as there are much better forms of contraception. Dr Louisa Draper

  • The ones that are consumed every day are called ‘birth control pills.’ You may remember the advertisement of a shy woman on yesteryear Doordarshan using ‘Mala D’.
  • The most common side effects are nausea, vomit and menstrual abnormalities (your period may come earlier, later, with more or less blood than usual); more rare side effects are fatigue, breast tenderness, headache and abdominal pain. Here is a friendly FAQ.

As for the campaign, there is still a long way to go because these processes would take its own time. We are however, fully appreciative of this move by the Director of Drug Control, which is an enormous step forward for women’s rights. This is of particular relevance in a state where ECPs have been made inaccessible on unreasonable grounds, sidestepping the autonomy women ought to have with their bodies. We also cannot reiterate enough the importance of your support. You helped us convince the Director to take action after all these years. Please do share the petition and let more people know about it. (Sign the petition here)

(Featured image by A Prabhakar Rao/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

You must be to comment.

More from Vaishnavi Sundar

Similar Posts

By Pooja jha

By Rohit Malik

By Swonshutaa Dash

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below