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Rajasthan HC Acquits Murder Accused On Grounds Of PMS

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I’ve always nurtured a fear of missing out that stems from not knowing what might have happened on a fine morning, in the winter of ’98 or on a particular afternoon in the year of ’99. But in a hysteric judgement, pun intended, The Rajasthan High Court ruled that women can plead the defence of insanity for crimes committed while experiencing premenstrual syndrome, otherwise known as PMS in colloquial slang. The Rajasthan High Court has proved Sigmund Freud’s position on female hysteria and it is like living in a pre-second world war era all over again.

The accused, a woman named Chandra Lajnani residing in Ajmer, pushed three children into a well, resulting in the death of one of them, back in 1981. Misusing Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, which pardons offenses committed due to psychological disorders, the defense pleaded insanity on the grounds of premenstrual syndrome, which in this case is being recognized as a psychological disorder. In a verdict that arrived 35 years later, the Jaipur bench of the court acquitted Chandra Lajnani, who murdered a child, on the grounds of insanity because apparently, the accused was afflicted by PMS; meaning, her act was involuntary.

One of the three doctors testifying at the trial said “Some women do not remain normal in the days preceding their cycle. They become aggressive, violent and even commit suicide.”

Judgments like these aren’t just a result of poor medical research and lack of medical evidence but they have their roots in a deep misunderstanding of what menstruation is and the social stigma surrounding it. While hormonal imbalances are not unheard of in a woman suffering from premenstrual syndrome, propagandist media under the influence of patriarchy has been demonstrating that women are insane and in the need of asylum. A hyperbolic representation of what a woman goes through during her cycle is always on TV.

The verdict that women are innately crazy and schizophrenic by nature arises from preposterous beliefs that are outdated. Women’s mental health had been hugely undermined up until the 1950s due to such prejudices, which is why many cases of mental disorders and epilepsy would be diagnosed under a catch-all term called “female hysteria”. The first case study diagnosed with hysteria was Anna O. A patient of Josef Bauer.

Such people believed that hysteria in females rose from sexual frustration. As women were not encouraged to be sexual beings, the way men were, their sexuality remained repressed and unexplored, causing them to act up, the only cure for this, as was widely believed, was ‘Hysterical paroxysms’. We’ve even seen a similar plot line in the Urdu author, “Ismat Chughtai’s” path-breaking yet controversial short story Lihaaf, in which “Begum Jaan” can’t rid herself of an itch.

Sigmund Freud too, through psychoanalysis or the talking cure, expressed that he had recovered a repressed thought in all his conversion-disorder patients. He recorded in his ‘Seduction Theory’ that all his patients, as a part of their unconscious memories, were repressing the memory of a sexual abuse that might have taken place in infancy and resulted in hysterical symptoms and neurosis. Freud’s success lies in his understanding, that the problems of the modernist and the post-modernist era would rise from gender and sexuality but “Simone de Beauvoir, The Feminist-Existentialist French Philosopher”  in “The Second Sex (1949)”, argues that “Freud saw an ‘original superiority’ in the male, that is in reality socially induced.”

Female Hysteria has for the most part been dropped from medical diagnosis and Sigmund Freud finds no place in Psychology, the modern discipline but is taught as a part of our curriculums only to emphasize on the fact that his methods were pseudo-scientific because he conducted no formal medical tests. Sigmund Freud also confided in Wilhelm Fliess, that he never managed to cure a single patient.

The problem though, with the Rajasthan HC’s verdict is that it trivializes the actual issues in women’s lives, making a mockery out of them. It tries to produce that a woman is frivolous and her problems superfluous, that she is not in control of herself and she needs a man who is supposed to pull her out of her emotional whims. It will cause people to disregard a woman’s opinion even more by using her menstruating status as an excuse to call her an unreasonable being, who cannot talk sense because she is under the influence of hormones. Medical science has supposedly advanced since the twentieth century but we might as well go back to diagnosing women with female hysteria that rises due to a wandering womb and treating people with cocaine.

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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.

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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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