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The Ridiculous Reason My Landlord Thought I Was A Sex Worker

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Editor’s note: This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #ShitLandlordsSay to start a conversation on the regressive behaviour young and single millennials put up with to find a dedcent place to stay. If you have a story to share, would like to share your opinion on recently reported incidents or policy reforms that can be put in place, write to us here.

I moved into a flat. It was a nice and spacious house. Logistically, convenient too. The market was only a few yards away. But the landlord lived a floor below my flat. Warning bells started to ring when I realised that he was aware of every movement I made. Every time that a delivery guy was ringing my door bell, he knew. I was being watched, uncomfortably.

Since college started, I have lived my life on my own terms. I was an adult and capable of handling situations, mistakes too. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be my parents keeping a check on me, but my landlord. He maintained a distance from me, never speaking to me directly. He was Bengali, and I was Punjabi, you see. He hated me. But I was paying rent and it was easy money for him.

Men were ‘allowed’ to visit me during the day, but if anyone stayed the night, he made my flatmate’s life hell. She was Bengali, and for him, it was easier, convenient even, to torture her. She would get phone calls at work, at parties and at all other times when he thought he wanted to talk about how I had ‘misbehaved’.

After three months in that flat, my flatmate asked me if we should move out. I readily agreed. On the day of our moving, as I waited in my new home for our furniture, he paid my flatmate a visit. She was in my room. He noticed my covers strewn over the bed and told her in Bengali that he thought it was cute I covered myself up while I slept. All of our friends interpreted it as his attraction to me.

It all made sense. He hated it when my boyfriend stayed the night with me. Even though I was careful enough to not arouse his suspicion, his spying made him know every detail about my life. He was always out when I was, looking at me walking. I always had the uncomfortable feeling that I was being watched. No matter what I did. However, since I had moved out, I decided to put this all behind me. Until, one day, in casual conversation, my flatmate mentioned, that he said, “I will get the police to raid your flat at night. I don’t understand what that girl (being me) is up to.” 

I couldn’t understand what he meant. Surely, it wasn’t what I was thinking. But my flatmate (being older and definitely wiser) proved my fears correct. He thought I was engaged in sex work. He had legitimised his statement to her, when he said, “There is no idea what men can do these days. Today she (me) may be dating this man (my boyfriend) but tomorrow, if they break up, he could simply assault her.” Needless to say, he thought me incapable of taking care of myself. He had taken it upon himself to ‘take care’ of me. We later got to know from other tenants that he was absolutely incapable of talking straight-faced to a woman.

We thought of every recourse that we could take. Neither of us wanted him to be able to torture another person who moved into the house. We decided to inform the police.

Indian society is one where everybody thinks they are entitled to control a woman’s actions. Everyone thinks of themselves to be the protectors of the ‘integrity’ of women. That day is a long way ahead when people realise that what others (especially women in today’s scenario) do with their lives is none of their business. If an individual needs help, they will ask. If they want something from you, they will tell you. Just because a woman has ‘too many’ male friends doesn’t mean that she’s a sex worker. It’s time you thought about bursting your social bubble.

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Image source: Silvia Sala/ Flickr
You must be to comment.
  1. Mrinaal Prem Swarroop Srivastava

    What happened with you was totally wrong- the gender discrimination part. NOBODY should be put in a disadvantaged situation, just because they’re from one particular gender.

    However, I do have a question: even though your landlord is undoubtedly a douchebag, creepy and misogynist, but none of these, until translated into an act, is a crime in itself.
    Being creepy or a douchebag is NEVER a crime, and I don’t think even having a misogynistic THINKING could be punished, as long as the person keeps his hands clean.

    Then WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU COMPLAIN TO THE POLICE? And what did they do about the complaint?

  2. Subham Singha

    What did the police do?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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