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It’s ‘Simran’ Time. And It’s Time To Reflect On How We Treat Divorcees

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While Kangana hops from one studio to the other, speaking her mind out and spilling beans from pods that people knew existed but never spoke about. We are forgetting something – that besides being one of the most outspoken artists of our times, she is also an ace marketer. She speaks only closer to her releases, gives her 200% for film promotion and makes sure that the film is on her able shoulders. I was googling about Kangana and saw her wearing an off shoulder pink dress in four different shows, and no shows had the same background, which means this powerhouse dynamo was travelling from one studio to another in a single day. I would not belittle all her efforts by simply saying that this is some sort of a marketing gimmick for her film, however, just as Vidya Balan wears the look of her characters in real life before its release, Kangana wears the attitude of her characters. Kangana has never been married, but she has spoken about her relationships with no holds barred. In “Simran”, she plays the character of Praful Patel, a divorcee in America.

Now let’s see how we treat divorcees in India? Well, if you are a female divorcee, you are either treated as a dukhiyaari bechaari or a charitraheen-naari. There is every attempt made by the angry-nosey-padosan to relate occasions like every time you get angry with the doodhwala, every time you wear a short dress or every time you even clean up your house to your divorce. “This is why her husband left her, she spends more time in cleaning”, “look she is so angry all the time, which man will keep her”. There are some people who are kind to her too, however, they would go more often like “Bechaari, she is so nice, her husband left her to fend for herself”.

One way of looking at it is – it is taken for granted that women are below men and the other angle to look at it is the fact that men are burdened as the caretakers of adult, fully capable beings. Society cripples both of these populous genders with their judgements.

Divorce processes are sometimes (if not always) dirty, just as break ups, but some ten notches more. Yes, there are times when couples walk hand in hand to the court to speak to the judge, but not that often do you see that happening. There is mudslinging and attempts to assassinate the character of either party. If there is a child involved, there is a cruel court contest on who is a better parent.

As a feminist, I believe in equality of all genders. I staunchly stand against labelling all men as oppressors and misogynists. Let’s look at cases individually and steer away from justifying our stereotypes by using statistics or our biased logic. In many cases, men in divorces are not treated fairly either. Many times, they cough up huge sums of money as alimony. Sometimes, they deserve to, for some ensure that wives don’t go to work and stay at home like some glorified domestic help. I am not referring to the cases where it is justified, I am referring to those which are unjust. Just as we champion women like Kangana for challenging the status-quo, we sometimes insult our men’s empathy quotient. Every-time a man wins the custody of the child, he is told to get home a “new mother” for the child. It is another way of politely telling the man that he is incapable of maternal feelings. If childless, he is labelled as the “wife-beater”, “impotent” and sometimes even as “gay”. The worst, we slowly make him a good-bad misogynist by telling him – “she left you for another man”. We live in a society where a dulha sitting on a malnourished and whipped ghoda is considered a sign of masculinity. I am not the one to make generalizations basis statistics but the case.

Look at my host-dost of “Satyamev Jayate”, Aamir Khan. There was a huge rumour that broke out calling him a cheat when he spoke about women’s rights. I know that he is pally with his ex-wife. In fact, even Kiran (Rao) is. Why do we have this impression that people have a filmy drama happening always after divorce? It may make news, may seem the rule of the game, but there are no stereotypes in this. Every relationship is different. Then there is Amrita Singh and Saif Ali Khan, where both faced the brunt. There’s the marriage of Rekha with businessman Mukesh Agarwal, a year after which he committed suicide. Though he left an “I don’t blame anyone” note, she still carries the blame of the broken relationship. Leander and Rhea had an ugly fall out. More recently, rumour mills are whistling about Hrithik and Suzanne, Karisma and Sunjay, Farhan and Adhuna, Malaika and Arbaaz and many others. We love to build our fantasies around the lives of the famous. We all have an opinion on why they got divorced and we link it to some funny orgy sex scandal or a love triangle (or quadrangle or pentagon or hexagon), which most probably some imagination of the supremely constipated creative mind. No one knows, but they themselves. Not everyone would be willing to wash their dirty linen in public. But housekeeper Praful Patel aka Kangana Ranaut in “Simran” sure does. More power to her for killing our imagination, by being so candid.

I am going to flock the theatre to watch this film written by Apurva Asrani just to witness firsthand the story of the bindas badass divorcee. That’s Praful Patel, Kangana in the reel, as real – kind and unkind, breaking stereotypes, and holding the reigns of her own life, in a world highly unkind to divorcees.

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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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