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A Reply To The Right-Leaning Gay Man’s Post On Scroll.in

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As I grappled with my privilege as a gay man in my post on Youth Ki Awaaz, another article was published on Scroll, seemingly voicing for the heterogeneity of political voices amidst gay men, in this case, an avowed support for the BJP government, at least in terms of their economic policies. As I read the post, I stumbled across a sphere of my thought I have never quite comprehended.

We, as queer people have always voiced our concerns about seeing heterogeneity among ourselves, but, somehow this difference has never extended to political thought. There are few, if any, LGBTQ icons who subscribe to rightist leanings, Milos Yiannopoulos and Caitlyn Jenner come to mind. This leads to a further, more nuanced question of whether this homogeneity in political thought has any ground except well-rooted philosophical alienation? The truth is a difficult one to ascertain.

For well-to-do individuals, the idea of freedom in the sense of economics comes as a worthy cause. Capitalism is lucrative to people who are enshrined in privilege and to the people who have been brought up on a culturally removed and elusive American Dream. Theoretically, a free market economy does provide a chance to advance. Thus, for many students from marginalised communities, the idea of learning English and going to work in the cities is an attractive option. This, however, does not address the fact that, it is not merely a class divide but a social divide that separates people.

The rural households still show a statistically significant divide in opportunities for land ownership and education on the basis of their castes. It does not address the fact that even in capitalist countries like the US, a huge proportion of the poor and homeless are LGBTQ people.

Neoliberal capitalism pushes this off as a matter of inconvenience and sells the idea of monetary success as an achievable dream. I despise liberalism partly because it ascends from the fact that “equality” as a term is very under-formed in their main political discourse.

The left’s grappling with identity politics and sexual liberation is not to be seen as a sort of meandering from the main point of class issues, but, as an acknowledgement of heterogeneity. Social orders, and the flow of power causes a stagnation in the economical front for a variety of people. Yet, for homosexual men, it is understandably difficult to understand the reasoning behind the need for the use of proper pronouns and other things as such. However, this again is because, in a way, the gay populace can intermix pretty well. As I mentioned in an earlier article, we can dress ourselves up in “proper” clothing and immediately be accepted. For trans youth, for non-binary youth, this idea is not so. What for us seems like an infatuation with the unimportant is their idea for identity, for recognition.

I agree with the author of the Scroll article in the case of Congress, but, I also need to declare that the Congress is mostly a centrist party. Their economical positions, going as far back as to 1992 has been firmly capitalist and entrenched in free market politics. However, the fact remains that Kerela, one of the most successful states in India, actually has had a left government,

Success and failure stories abound in both the arenas then. The BJP has shown a recent fall in GDP due to the demonetization fiasco too. This brings me to question, where does the difference lie? Why do people subscribe to the right’s way of thinking?

The unthinking hatred of the majority by the left, when brought up in a debate turns to several discourses. However, our understanding of ‘thinking’ needs to be questioned. Today, when we question Hindu festivals, do we not bring the idea that the majority has to be the main participant in reducing whatever ills affect our society? Or as a person who was born as Hindu, why would I not vouch for corrective measures in our own society rather than that on a larger scale?

This can be perceived as an ignorance to the Muslim minority, which has more or at least equal amounts of offences in their part. Yet, the egregious socio-economic differences between Hindus and Muslims cannot be ignored either.

I, personally, advocate for the complete removal of religion, for the idea of a God seems to be a faint and blank one. However, I also acknowledge the difference in education and other things that drive the Muslim populace to a side and holds them off from integration. This, however, does not mean there should not be a revisionist stance appearing in Muslim societies. What we need to understand is that this change needs to come from the inside, and not from the outside. State-funded oppression does not further the cause of a change in their stances, it only cements it by increasing the difference.

So, I still do not comprehend right-wing thought as a whole, but I understand the need for discourse around the idea. I also understand that the heterogeneity in political voices amidst any group is an inevitability. However, we as the left also need to understand and take a stance against the apparent ‘truth’ put forward by the other people. We also need to understand that the ‘other’ in right-wing discourse is often us, and this idea of ‘otherness’ in politics needs to be defeated summarily if we are to progress.

Again, I do not view the author of the said article as the ‘other’, he’s my brethren. However, in the system of equality that he falsely perceives as true, I also take the chance to take the discourse to him. In this case, the machine of equality he presupposes as existing in a capitalist economy is what creates a space for me to debate and counter his words. This is important too and I support him insofar as this is concerned, but it’s what comes after that creates the debate

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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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