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What Is It About Women Who ‘Party’ That Has Indian Society So Insecure?

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New Year’s Eve in Bengaluru turned out more nightmarish than celebratory when multiple women were reportedly molested, harassed, and forced to flee the streets in fear, in different parts of the city. Mobs of unruly men allegedly took to areas like MG Road, Brigade Road and Churchgate and manhandled women, while the police were unable to disperse the ensuing chaos, and convict any of the perpetrators.

As scary as it sounds, this isn’t a novel occurrence. Delhi streets continue to be unsafe for women after dark – and the city has even been statistically proven our ‘rape capital’ due to the amount of recorded sexual violence cases – but other Indian cities, both big and small, aren’t far behind. However, what’s most horrifying is that in a lot of these cases, it’s party-going women who often become the targets.

In February 2012, Suzette Jordan, after leaving a nightclub in Kolkata’s Park Street, was raped by two men; and in the same year, a 17-year old girl was brutally attacked, molested, and then filmed in front of a crowd at a Guwahati nightclub. Since then, cases such as these have constantly recurred, Bengaluru’s being just the latest one.

What is it about women who ‘party’ that has Indian society so insecure?

Our popular culture unfairly stigmatises women who drink, and such a habit is almost always equated with questionable moral character. This is indeed bizarre, because recent studies have found that women drink as much as men do, so to stigmatise the former and normalise the latter is a skewed equation indeed.

Indian patriarchy constantly tries to slot women into regressive modes of ‘good behaviour’, and the stereotypes associated with the ‘party girl’ – that she wears western clothes, has male friends, stays out late at night, is sexually active – do not conform to the same. These stereotypes itself are regressive and stem from a need to control women’s bodies and choices, and that is precisely the reason why going to nightclubs or inhabiting public spaces after dark become almost a subversive act for women, as it stems from this refusal to conform, and threatens the patriarchal status quo.

People always stare judgmentally whenever I’m leaving the house to go clubbing at night,” says Shraddha, a 20-year-old law student from Bengaluru who is a frequent club-goer, “as if I have offended them in some way just by wearing a dress that shows off my legs. It used to make me feel self-conscious at first, but now I’m just annoyed. I party for myself, why should they care what I wear or do?”

But it is this subversiveness, this defiance of patriarchal norms, this refusal to care, is what makes women vulnerable to violence. Even taking a cab at night can prove dangerous, because numerous cases of rape and assault have emerged not just in public transport, but also private cabs like Uber. And then you have cases like that of Park Street, Guwahati, and Bengaluru, where the nightclubs itself cease to be safe spaces.

Though feminist movements like Pinjra Tod are trying to reclaim public spaces for women after dark, and are emphasising the need for greater mobility for women at night to achieve the same, cases like that of Bengaluru are still somehow a reality. There have already been multiple social media posts comparing the city to that of Delhi in terms of sexual violence, but the truth is that regardless of which Indian city you are in, women continue to have a hard time – especially when they step out to party at night.

Neither has the police been able to navigate the situation and adequately help the women in Bengaluru, nor has the government promised any further action other than examining CCTV footage, and so far, things continue to look bleak. It seems as if Bengaluru is set to become yet another example of the ever-growing number of harassment cases in India which remain just that – an example – rather than being any actual cause for action or protest. How many more cases will it take for Indian society to finally realise that the problem lies within itself, and the regressive norms it imposes upon Indian women? How many more cases will it take for us to finally hold the perpetrators accountable, rather than tell women to take precautions and not go out at night?


Image source: Brent Stirton/Getty Images for the GBC
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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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