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A Group In Bangalore Is Using Art To Start A Pro-LGBTQ Revolution

“What is thy name? He said, ‘My name is Love.’

Then straight the first did turn himself to me

And cried, ‘He lieth for his name is Shame.”

The above lines are extracted from the poem “Two Loves” by Lord Alfred Douglas, where he expresses his passion for his beloved playwright, Oscar Wilde.  Their love deepened with time and distance, but couldn’t blossom because of the winds of hatred, that often tried to de-seed its very existence. Wilde was imprisoned for sodomy multiple times and was forced to ostracize himself from the discriminatory world.

That was 1897, and more than 100 years have gone by, but we are still stuck to the archaic rules that were and are against all kinds of ‘freedom of expression’.  The society dictated love, it was homophobic and transphobic then, and is still the same.

Society at large has always been reluctant to accept anything that is apparently against the norms; and when it comes to love and sex, the degree of reluctance intensifies. The word “queer” is often associated with something that is unacceptable, abnormal, and improper. People, who identify themselves as queer struggle to explore the dimensions of normality, which, through their eyes, looks like a dystopian creation. And the internal rage boils in a closed heart with no possible escape for the steamed violent passion. Queer people then suffer from internal combustion that leads to depression, loneliness, and sometimes to suicide. The need is to block the hick, and begin having a dialogue, so as to at least frame the thought template that defines queer as another normal.

Delhi Queer Pride 2013

We believe this dialogue could be initiated through expressive art. An artist tends to represent his internal space and feelings through his/her artwork, and the observer can interpret it in any way they want. When artists of all kinds–writers, poets, filmmakers, painters, dancers or singers—raise their voices against injustices and insensitivity, then observers are deemed to react and understand the causes and consequences.

Historically, was a powerful tool to change the world. Whether we talk about moving theatre, or street plays, or graffiti; political and social revolutions always witnessed a large number of people coming together through art. The history of street art or graffiti can be traced back to the metropolitan cities of America in the 1980s, and who could ever forget the revolutionary song “Hum Dekhenge” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, which was sung by Iqbal Bano, wearing a black saree, an outfit that was banned in Zia Ul Haq’s administration.

One of the most iconic works in literature about homosexual relationships, and about love in general, is “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx. The words leave you wondering whether the sanctity of love can ever be questioned if it nourishes itself from the souls that belong to the same genders. Time and again, not only through literary work but through modern means of communication, the issue of ‘love for all’ has been raised by activists and crusaders.

Here is a tweet by Congress M.P, Shashi Tharoor questioning our political leaders’ take on LGBTQ rights.

Screenshot from Twitter

In 2015, Miley Cyrus took to instagram to create transawareness, where she narrated stories of trans people with their portraits.

When politicians and celebrities endorse a cause like this, followers are more likely to build a sense of connection and get inspired by real life stories.  The bandwagon effect must become powerful with more stakeholders joining the campaign in any way possible.

The main findings of the research done by the International Journal of Applied Research in 2016, on issues and challenges of ‘LGBT’ minority people in India are:

 “Due to loneliness LGBT people become drug addicts and turn toward alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs than the general population. These LGBT minority people become victims of violence and crime. In many instances LGBT individuals are not legally protected from abusive and discriminatory actions.”

Therefore, our initiative as Miyabi, The Art Gym, called “LGBT & Art”, in collaboration with the Art Pickles blog, aims at starting a dialogue about things that are considered taboos. Our aim is to create a platform for anyone and everyone who has a voice on the issue to come and express themselves freely without the fear of being ostracized or judged for what they may think, feel, or say.

When celebrities endorse a cause like this, followers are more likely to build a sense of connectivity and get inspired by real life stories.  The bandwagon effect must become powerful with more stakeholders joining the campaign in any way possible.

We have been able to bring activists, survivors, and artists on a common platform, where we dream of unifying the voices from different directions, and initiate a powerful movement.

So, if we hope that someday we would be able to normalize queerness, don’t you think the initiative must take the form of a revolution?

The “LGBT & Art” event will be held on May, at Miyabi, The Art Gym (Gurgaon), from 5pm onwards. For more details, click here. Check out @miyabitheartgym on Instagram.
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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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