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Why 120K Indians Have Signed Up For An Extramarital Dating Site

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Surveys will have some sample-set bias, but these numbers still give a clue of how big the institution of arranged marriage is in India. An NDTV survey showed 74% of Indians preferred arranged marriages. The Taj Wedding Barometer survey showed 75% of young Indians (aged between 18-35) preferred arranged marriages, with the number being 82% for Indian women. But preferences need not always mean success.

Gleeden is an online dating platform with the tagline “the first extramarital dating site made by women.” Dating apps in India target singles. Gleeden targets married people. Being a global website, it was available for Indians to register. Recently, it launched an India-specific strategy. It has already reached approximately 120,000 users in India. Its Indian subscribers initially grew without any marketing whatsoever, and it is only now that it is looking at advertising. While this growth makes an admirable case-study, does it also reveal some truths about the institution of Indian marriages, especially that of arranged marriage?

There is nothing new about the lack of compatibility and gaps in relationships in many marriages around us, creating that unfulfilled desire to find fulfilment, excitement or happiness. In an interview, Solène Paillet, 29, head of communications and manager of the- all women team at Gleeden saidwhen you are married for a few years, you need some excitement which people are now finding online. [Gleeden] does not interfere with the institution of marriage but creates a secure and anonymous space for people seeking affairs outside their relationships.

But while this may be true world-over, should India have been different? After all, arranged marriages in India are often quoted higher success rates given that the process evaluates various compatibility factors and socio-economic and familial parameters. Unlike love marriages, where emotions often render people blind to such practicalities. While it is not written that Gleeden’s 120,000 subscribers have had arranged marriages; one assumes they would make a reasonable share going by the skewed results of the above-mentioned surveys.

The perceived success rate of arranged marriages may also be because couples stay quiet and bear it, rather than air dirty laundry in public. Even if one assumes that these 120,000 subscribers have had love marriages, it still questions India’s education and upbringing which moulds peoples’ ability to judge and appreciate another individual. Nevertheless, marriages have been far from perfect for many, despite being a national obsession. Separation is still considered taboo in many families, although that perception is now changing. But the desire to find fulfilment, excitement or happiness remains, even if it is for a short-term. This site gives them a chance to fill that gap, and the pace of registrations indicates some indeed are trying to. All this highlights what most Indians already knew; that traditional Indian society preferred not to talk about marriages openly. This site has just brought out the debate in the open.

Coincidentally, of Gleeden’s 120,000 Indian subscribers, 75% are men. Hindustan Times had conducted an experiment, where they created two profiles – a 30-year male and a 30-year female. The female profile received huge interest, the male profile hardly any. The female profile’s male respondents were mostly in their 40s and shared reasons like boredom, lack of relationship, etc. Quick gratification seemed to be in the minds of most, as they wanted to meet at the earliest rather than interact first for some time. Again, this may not necessarily indicate an unhappy marriage; but it makes it worse for those happy marriages where the husband was a subscriber.

Assuming few of these subscribers to be arranged marriage cases, it is also not encouraging to note that the evaluation process of arranged marriages can end up matching two partners, one of whom could be a subscriber. Meanwhile, the relative lack of traffic from Indian women subscribers on Gleeden showed they are yet to open up to alternatives. But their pace may still remain slow if they have to endure perverted behaviour. Gleeden has answered this by incorporating relevant features, like allowing women to rate male members. This should give women more comfort to register.

Compatibility, fulfilment and perversion apart, a desire to save the marriage might also explain part of the traffic. Even though it sounds like a paradox. Anecdotes abound amongst married Indian couples about how a long-drawn unhappy relationship often creates a mental bias, and this block reduces the motivation to make the effort to improve the relationship. This is in line with the recent spike in divorce rates in India since it is easier to give up than to make that effort. While some cases may be genuinely unsolvable, some may be due to this mental block. What if a short-term extramarital relationship can help save that marriage?

This is because an external catalyst can create a positive stimulus by giving confidence or a refreshed outlook. That can help overcome the mental block, giving renewed energy to make that effort to improve the original relationship. Getting to talk to someone may be the catalyst. Feeling loved again may be the catalyst. Realising that one’s spouse wasn’t so bad relatively may be the catalyst. Reviving feelings of intimacy may be the catalyst. Realising life is not all black may be the catalyst. Getting a friend may be the catalyst. A short-term alternative may just be the catalyst that makes some of these folks see their original relationships again with positivism, and motivates them to fight that block and make that effort.

While the topic of infidelity may be ammunition for the Indian moral brigade, it will be hard to believe it did not exist. As per a survey, 76% of Indian women and 61% of Indian men had no issues going extramarital. People just didn’t talk about it openly. But duplicity surrounds us. For instance, many vegetarians vocally admonishing non-vegetarian eaters in India are often the ones eating non-veg food without the knowledge of their families. Whether infidelity existed or not in India, the rapid growth of subscribers on this website does raise questions on the success of the institution of Indian marriage, especially, arranged marriages. That does not mean the institution itself is a flop, since numerous success stories abound in both arranged and love marriages. Consider yourself fortunate if you are in one.

Sourajit Aiyer is the author of 2 books in UK and Germany and has written for 38 publications of 13 countries. He has worked in Mumbai, London, Delhi and Dhaka, and has been invited to speak at conferences in India and abroad. He blogs at www.sourajitaiyer.wordpress.com

 

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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 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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