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Semen Balloons On Holi Is Okay, But Women Raising Their Voice Against It Isn’t?

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On 28th February, a protest and poster campaign was organized by Nazariya: A Grassroots LGBT-Straight Alliance and students from Delhi University starting from the back park of Lady Shri Ram College and ending at Amar Colony Market. It was a protest in response to deplorable act committed by the men who threw balloons filled with questionable substances at an LSR student which started a discourse on harassment culture surrounding Holi. Students printed posters calling out the public for normalising harassment in the name of tradition and chanted slogans like “Pittrasatta se azaadi”, “Semen Go Back”, and “Bura maano Holi hai” in reply to the common saying “Bura na maano Holi hai” which is often used as an excuse for the horrendous antics played on people during Holi.

“I feel that the protest was a knock, a loud knock on the doors of those men who objectify women and believe they can’t speak up. It was a step towards a society where women are respected equally as men are,” says Abhyuday, a DU student. 

Likewise, another student, Brinda, added: “It made me realise what flying is like despite having your wings chained. Maybe the cage of patriarchy hasn’t completely opened yet but the taste of freedom never felt sweeter.

Holi in recent times has become increasingly violent and predatory and the fact that the self proclaimed nationalists think that hooliganism is an integral part of Holi is an attack on the very tradition that they are claiming to protect. We believed therefore that it was important to start a dialogue with the public. So after the addressal and discussion on “Consent, rape culture, and Holi”, the protesters personally conversed with the onlookers and informed them about the reasons behind the protest and campaign. A few hours after the protest, another news of a sticky substance filled balloon being thrown at a girl at Amar Colony was shared on the protest group on WhatsApp and the group and some students from LSR gathered at around 7 pm and chanted slogans in front of the perpetrator’s house and proceeded to file an F.I.R.

Nazariya faced “trolling” from various right wing pages and accounts online while planning the event, to a point where they infiltrated into our whatsapp group and tried to sabotage the protest by calling group members and posting pictures apparently meant to provoke us. We later found out that the main leader attended our protest and posted personal information about the organisers on 4chan which prompted us to file an F.I.R. against the group which is currently awaiting investigation.

All these experiences have been extremely overwhelming for us emotionally. Every Holi season we talk about the need to prevent public disorder but we don’t see much action from law enforcement or authorities. Every year we repost and write articles about consent when Holi comes near but our words rarely translate into action. This isn’t even only about gender based harassment. It is a matter of consent. Are we going to take steps to change the culture? Or are we going to come back here next year chanting the same slogans as we get assaulted on our way to and from the protest?


We recall something Pragya (yet another student) had shared with us. “A rickshaw-wala, who wanted to share his opinions with us, was pushed away by an old man because according to him, we were stupid children,” she tells us. “We gave the rickshaw-wala a chance to speak and he went on to describe how sad the harassment around Holi makes him, especially because people of many different cultures live together in this little city. The fact that there are people who are not educated much but cultured enough to know the difference between right and wrong lit me up. It gave me hope.

All images courtesy of Nazariya LGBT.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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