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Why The Nationalists Are Outraged By Your Sexuality

The growth of fascism is evident in its construction of a masculine state which enforces patriarchy upon women, men and LGBTQ people in a most brutal fashion. It is the state, with the Constitution, which still imposes colonial rule upon its subjects wherein they do not have the identity of a citizen. The state formation in the case of India has always been imaginative and ideological and with the rise of capitalism it has given itself an economic base making use of the Indian comprador bourgeoisie.

In February 2016, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University were labeled as “anti-national” elements. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The so-called ‘nationalist’ ideology is masculine, authoritarian and anti-democratic, and it is spreading throughout the nation, even being recognized internationally. This recognition comes from the very fact that the executive forces of India effectively cull and liquidate all liberation movements which are also the source of mobilization for people within the country. People’s movements are termed as “anti-national” movements, even in the universities. This is happening to such an extent that even if the students have no inclination to inquire into the nature of state repression, they nonetheless irremediably face it owing to the reactionary character of the bourgeois state, through budget and seat cuts.

Nationalism in India is still very colonial in nature as it discriminates and differentiates between the mother and its subsidiaries. Consider the representation of the territory of India — by calling it “Bharat Mata”, the nationalists evoke the same divine overture as the subjects of the Queen in British colonies. However, if one might view it from a dialectical perspective, the father figure is missing from the triad. This substitution is very important to understand and contextualize in the background of feudally divided India ruined by oriental despotism. The figure is further maintained with patriarchs that become parliamentary leaders. Ideological formation of nationalism therefore requires the thinking of Indian politics in a polarization of binaries.

Seldom are the people really conscious about the contradictions between these binaries; these remain repressed and form a residual element of the nationalist ideology. The Indian ruling class has effectively spread antagonisms between different sections of society and within different communities. The nationalist State reserves the right of a citizen’s existence since it is backed by State power and its respective apparatuses. It is important to understand that there are commissions working for the integration of different communities within the State. But in practical sense, these institutional provisions are both bureaucratic and corrupt.

British officials hunting in India, 1897. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Parallels can again be drawn between the civil Indian officials working for the imperial benefit of the queen of England and the East India Company and civil servants; between bourgeois political party representatives and the multinational corporations. It needs to be understood that India is still largely feudal, and also tribal. It is small wonder that people from India are still seen as ‘noble savages’ and discriminated against; this is just a result of a nationalist ideology of a different country perceiving the Indian citizen. Therefore, we need to change the very social formation of Indian society by solving the issue of internal conflicts through revolutionary class struggles.

It is remarkably clear that the whole of Asia, including China and Japan, and especially India, have a high rate of income inequality which is all the more fatal for Indian society in terms of its income distribution among the various states. The urban belt in India is the focus of Indian politics and the perfect crowd to absorb nationalist propaganda. The hyper-realistic and graphic images of Indian soldiers preparing for combat or arms ready at a conflict zone reported by the media is devoid of any substantive matter on how the situation can be resolved. This is precisely because the media does not have to cater solutions to a middle-class audience whose lives are in no way really affected by the strategic losses of the Indian State in a conflict zone. In the rural belt however, nationalist politics takes a more fundamentalist ideological turn, wherein masses are mobilized on the basis of their religious or communal identities.

Here a short but important detour is needed to understand the nature of the oppressor and the oppressed in terms of gender. Due to different cultural practices, imagining a unitary notion of gender is impossible. Gender is more or less a social construct, and, due to its biological (or sexual) differentiation, is hegemonized by dominant social forces. What we therefore encounter is a sexual union for the sole process of endless production and to maintain the flow of capital. The self-producing homosexual relationship and sexual experimentation through enactment of ‘perverted’ fantasies are penalized by the State and ostracized by the society as being ‘feminine’. By putting a limit upon the extreme, the state manages to control the whole spectrum.

A right to vote and office reserved for more rigid genders gives rise to the divide in bourgeois identity politics. The idea of gender and sexuality is very conservative and violent in the nationalist ideology which becomes manifest in its outrage against any form of public portrayal of acts of love. This repression is then released in the form of a Bollywood movie from which the middle-class derives the pleasure of ‘culture’. In general, the state with its nationalist ideology has the power to sharply distinguish between the ‘masculine’ and the ‘feminine’ traits to create a repressed binary of gender that is evident in the modern English language.

Caste and gender determine one’s access to resources, as well as to power. (Photo by Mahendra Parikh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The issue of identities such as gender and caste often create their own social movements which are fought under feudal construction. The parliamentary and legal bodies of the State are effective in dividing the class composition of caste groups for electoral benefit. The state provides few openings to the marginalized sections and the diversity and population of India is such leaving aside the urban elite and rural landlords, all else fall more or less under the category of ‘marginalized section’. The overlapping of gender and caste is in a lot of ways intentional and necessary to better understand colonial forms of creolized sexuality, feudal caste oppression, and the general problem of racism.

No national or nationalist ideology has ever been able to provide gender equality and end racism, and only communist countries like Cuba can boast of a being a country that effectively dealt with racism and maintained optimum gender neutrality. In India, nationalism has further led to racist and communal violence. Militant nationalism brings out a very regressive attitude in the idea of nationalism, that of viciously using the language of sexual violence. Most forget the fact that the rural belts are a part of India and that farmers, migrant labourers and others are also Indians, most of them scavenging on the ruins of the demolished modes of production.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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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