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Why We Must See That Consent And Sex Are Directly Proportional To Each Other

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PLD logoEditor’s Note: This post is part of a video series by Partners for Law in Development - India and Co:Motion. Based on stories re-constructed from real cases, this series, in collaboration with Youth Ki Awaaz, seeks to create crucial conversations around sexuality, consent and rejection. If you have experiences or a story to share, publish it here.

Imagine this scenario – a young woman walks into a clothing store. She looks around and likes a dress. She asks for its price and realises that it’s a bit expensive for her. Then the saleswoman tries to persuade her with a discount on the dress. The woman also looks at other options in the shop. In the end, she leaves the clothing store, after denying the discount offered.

So even if the saleswoman was not happy, she doesn’t have the right to shout at the customer or constantly remind her that she had liked the dress in the beginning. The customer may have thought of purchasing the dress but she said no, as she didn’t want an expensive one. She may have thought about it again when a discount was offered for the dress. But in the end, she said no to the saleswoman and walked out.

So, should the customer be persuaded by the saleswoman and forced to purchase it? Should the woman be reminded of this particular dress, the next time she walks into the shop by the saleswoman? No.

Similarly, in matters of sex, why is it that the absence of consent is not taken as a valid reason when a woman says so?

Sex shouldn’t be about probabilities, imagined consent or interests, history of other sexual relationships, consented sexual relationship in the past between the two parties, or ‘maybe’ and ‘if’ based on body language. It should be based on purely verbal consent and expression of that consent. It should be about mutual respect, understanding and clear communication between the parties involved.

Sex has, for so long, been on the basis of power relations between the sexes with regard to decision making in having sex or expressing one’s sexuality, usually in favour of men. It has also been associated only with the marriage of two genders. Sex has, for long, been associated with unhealthy expressions of female sexuality, encouraged male domination and presented men as the key decision makers in having sex. Sex has for long, been a taboo subject during the growing up years of most adults in our society. Sex has, for long, been a hushed-up topic for women, until the day of their marriage, especially in the Indian context.

Even after progressive amendments to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the inhibitions to consent to sex, still hasn’t changed much. In spite of a legal definition of consent in the law, aimed at removing patriarchal notions and prejudices in cases of past sexual history or absence of physical injury or lack of evidence in having denied the sexual activity that took place, between the accused and survivor, there seems to no major change in many court cases and judgements. It is as if some of the legal amendments are done on paper only and many judges don’t even take the pain to evaluate the reason behind them. Why do we have the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act 2017? Or why are we still advocating for the removal of Section 377 and countless other sections in various laws in India?

One of the recent court judgements that really boggled me was the sexual harassment case against Director Mahmood Farooqui. In spite of the trial court taking into consideration of the newly added definition of ‘consent’ in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, the Delhi High Court actually overturned this aspect in this case. The High Court actually assumed that the accused in this case, known to the survivor, did not understand that the survivor had said ‘no’, possibly because the no was ‘feeble’.

When I sat down to write this, I was letting go of my frustrations at witnessing this situation around us every day. And it just doesn’t stop at gaining mutual respect and understanding in when to have sex. A simple understanding of each other’s desire for sex just increases the amount of pleasure and good sexual intimacy for both parties. Sometimes it as simple as that. Such mutual respect will automatically dilute the power equations between the sexes, or rather at least, see the probabilities of living our daily lives without the need for gender inequalities and discrimination.

More the number of people realise that consent in sex is not just a personal matter, lesser would be the number of cases related to sexual violence, in our homes as well as in public places.

As women, we negotiate this, sometimes silently, sometimes boldly. The reason that we still have to stress on the right to say ‘no’ to having sex, in different situations, is exactly why this change in rigid mindsets and patriarchal notions of sex is needed today! And it can start in my home, your home, all our homes! In the end, surely such a large effect would trickle onto the different layers in the society.


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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.

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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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