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My Friends And I Were Denied A House Over An Eyeliner

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By Divyaroop:

Finding a place to live in Mumbai is tough. Some owners only want a ‘family person’ while others won’t rent their house to a single woman. But Divyaroop found out that there’s one more thing that the landlords find difficult to accept.

Sunday Morning Jolt

It was a beautiful, lazy Sunday and I had woken up in the afternoon. As I was wondering what to cook for lunch, my phone started ringing. It was my landlord. I had already paid the rent for this month. What could be his grief then, I wondered.

A Sunday spoiler it truly was. He told me that I had to vacate the house soon. His brother was moving to Mumbai from Kerala for a job and he wanted the house for him. What a nightmare, I thought and shared the news with my two roommates, who were fast asleep. We were given a notice of 15 days to a month to vacate the place. Hence, began my search for a new house.

Opening The Pages

I called up a couple of friends, checked the internet and even asked my colleagues at the office. People suggested a few options but none looked great. Then I spoke to a few brokers and one of them asked me to come over to check out a place. I liked the place and finalised it. We decided to do the paperwork and financials on Monday.

I work at a call centre and live with two roommates. *Abhay is a freelance model while *Mohak is studying in a college. I was at work on Monday, so I asked my roommates to give the token money to finalise the deal and submit the required documents. We were asked to bring various documents like Aadhaar, PAN and a joining letter or an office ID.

Abhay and Mohak went with all the documents. I recently joined a new place and didn’t have my joining letter with me yet, and so we offered to give my new office ID. At first, they agreed. The landlady was ready to take our documents and get them photocopied. At this point, the broker took her aside and said something. Soon they returned and said, it will be difficult to rent with just an office ID. It can be fake. You’ll have to get the joining letter!

The Realisation

When I got back home, my friends told me what had happened and it felt a bit weird at first. How can anyone question a photo ID card of your workplace?

I then noticed Abhay was wearing a green eyeliner. It suddenly dawned upon me that it may not have been the lack of a joining letter but the presence of the green line on Abhay’s eyelid that had perhaps caused the U-turn.

My doubt was confirmed when even after procuring the letter, the landlady and the broker still appeared unwilling to seal the deal. “You get the letter and then we’ll have to check,” said the broker and left. He didn’t even wait for my friends to confirm how soon will he respond.

Reasons Not To Rent

I assume that they did not want to ask us about our friend’s appearance and his eyeliner but declined to rent us the house fearing his identity. What strikes me is that people in India can possess fake Aadhaar and PAN cards and still get houses on rent, but we who had all the original documents were denied a house.

It also got me thinking how difficult it is for people to find the house for various reasons. If you are a bachelor, people have issues. If you are a girl and living alone, finding a place to rent can be tough. If you drink or smoke, landlords tell you it is not allowed. If you eat non-veg food, some landlords have problems with that too. Some landlords won’t rent their house to a Muslim. And if you are gay or identify as transgender, your chances are probably minuscule. In fact, if you’re anything but a shaadi shuda couple with a baccha or two, people have issues!

The Current Situation

Abhay felt guilty that he was careless and expressed his identity so openly. However, we felt that it was good that he did what he wanted to. It is better to know something like this in advance than to be harassed later. We couldn’t have managed there later with that attitude. But still, he felt he saddened and angry by what had happened.

We are still looking for a house within our budget in our locality and it’s been a stressful time. Day in and day out we see discrimination and homophobia. It doesn’t matter how honestly you have lived your life. What matters is how you dress, feel, and express yourself. And if it doesn’t fit with what the society considers normal, then your academic, professional and other qualifications and honest work reputation, all is in vain.

We met that landlady again after two days when some other broker took us to the same apartment to show us some flats. She appeared to not recognise us and avoided eye contact. I really wish she had given us a chance, to know us as people, to see how good tenants we could have been and how we all could have had a relationship that wasn’t smudged by the prejudice over an eyeliner.

*To protect identity, few names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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