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What The Fundamental Right To Privacy Means For The LGBTQ Community

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Woke up on the right side of the bed today, but the government won’t know which side anymore because right to privacy.”

A friend of mine recently left this message on social media. In its dark comical tone, the post really sets things in perspective upon the sheer imperative value that the right to privacy brings into the lives of citizens. The end of August has been strongly marked by constitutional victories; the elevation of privacy to a guaranteed fundamental right is not the result of popular demand, but a move to protect the element of choice over the disdain of majorities. With this ruling the apex court has set things in motion to protect its integrity, by really announcing that the guarantee of constitutional rights are not inclined upon its exercise by being favorably regarded by majoritarian opinion. They are binding in nature, and hence need to be uplifted by the true vanguards of justice.

India is a nation of closets. Men here progressively numb themselves to public displays of affection and emotion under the constant fear of losing their undisputed title of ‘mard’ and masculinity. However, the level of scrutiny that people of different sexual orientations have had to deal with is immeasurable in comparison. That said, LGBTQ people now have a chance. A chance to safeguard themselves from the twitchy, glaring eyes of those who proclaim themselves as the rightful protectors of ‘culture’ and ‘honour’ (let that sink in).

The Supreme Court’s historic ruling on August 24, declaring privacy as a fundamental right not only looks at dethroning the master puppeteer from its damning works, but allows real people to flaunt their identity. This looks like the ray of optimism which could have a snowball effect – it could pave the way for more democratic decisions and could further incentivize the policy framework to go about the favorable route. A lot of deadwood colonial-era laws need to go, and the right to privacy could just be the domino effect this country needs.

LGBT Pride Parade Delhi
LGBT Pride Parade Delhi

The decision however shouldn’t be looked at as a tactical maneuver to woo the emerging classes; but how things could turn out in the near future, and the lingering thoughts that still circle around Section 377. But there is no apprehension whatsoever that the consensus reached by the nine judge bench will seek to drain Section 377 of its powers. With the refreshing addition of the all new Fundamental Right, what happens behind closed doors is now protected under the Constitution. It’ll now act as a self-implicating wound for those who impose themselves into the lives of others. Because now to ‘prove’ certain violations, they’ll be crossing the line which is fundamentally defended by the Constitution.

What is truly uplifting about the judgment is its literary framework: it not only attacked the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s inhumane decision of 2013, but also announced that the protection of sexual orientation lies at the core of Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

A line from the judgment reads: “A miniscule fraction of the country’s population constitutes of lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgender (as observed in the judgment of this Court) is not a sustainable basis to deny the right to privacy.” The decision is a strong statement which will resonate within the ecosystem of religious fundamentalists who misinterpret sexuality, and believe that majoritarian thinking can be imposed here.

There is little doubt around the fact that the oxygen supply to Section 377 needs to be halted. Several dialogues have been tirelessly spread out in the open which wanted the courts to recognize, that the question of gender identity is closely related to the question of sexual orientation and desire. We need to realize that in the digital age it’s not machines we need to be wary of, it’s the exoskeletal being behind who is the real puppeteer, sitting casually on a throne labelled ‘Judgment’.

Now that we have the fundamental right to practice our beliefs and express ourselves in the safety of our homes, we’ll see more people embracing their true selves and not being subjected to community meddlings and sacrifices at the altar of ‘integrity’. We are safe now with all the characteristics of privacy intact within, and maybe the price for safety doesn’t always result in the loss of privacy.

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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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