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Students At Pondicherry Uni. Beat All Odds To Organise First Ever Pride March

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The LGBTQ students group, ‘Spectra’ of Pondicherry University organised a pride march and walked through the streets of Pondicherry, starting at the infamous Gender Gate that separated the boys’ and girls’ hostels.

Post the decriminalisation of Section 377 (of the Indian Penal Code) Judgement, by the Supreme Court of India, the students at Pondicherry Uni. organised their first ‘Pondicherry Pride March’ on September 28th, 2018, celebrating the judgment. While planning was in full swing, an unfortunate incident happened on the night between the 18th and 19th September, wherein unidentified individuals defaced the posters.

Pride In Pondicherry

This semester, the word “pride” has been an exciting one for the students of Pondicherry University in Kalapet. The march was one of its kind where the students from this 30-year-old institution, marched together as equals, celebrating diversity and walking with their identities as badges of honour.

Spectra is a student support group that was formed to increase awareness about the queer community. The body is unregistered and is a completely student-funded group, with no defined hierarchies or membership requirements. The pride march was organised to address the many hardships queer folks face in the country.

Armed with the emotion“we will sing, dance, rage and love– with the hope that our passion and resolve will contribute to a more welcoming campus for all”, they began their march.

Students participated in many events that were conducted in the course of organising the march. Through events like an open poster drawing session, the students discussed their experiences and dealt with questions pertaining to gender, sex and sexuality. In accordance with the aim of Spectra, this was a major need to be addressed on the campus, as sexism and other kinds of phobias against people not conforming to the female-male binary and heterosexuality exist.

With women participation outnumbering the men, as many as 200 students participated in the pride. This was rather uncommon when it came to political events in Pondicherry University. There were many songs, a wide range of topics were addressed, like, discriminatory actions by the university administration, denial of access to WiFi for more than one and a half years in Aurobindo (hostel temporarily allotted to women) and fencing of only the Girls’ Hostels.

A large number of student organisations also supported the march even though Spectra PU is not affiliated to any political party.

Problems Faced By Spectra

Despite the huge success of the march, there were a lot of problems that the organising committee had to face. The problems started with the University administration delaying granting of permission for the event for more than 12 days. They were later ordered not to “indulge in any political activities [or] talk about any religion, caste or community,” and in the course of the pride, ‘outsiders’ were stopped from attending the event; the organisers of the pride were even asked to submit a video recording of the entire event.

At the time of the pride, the Pondicherry International Film Festival was going on, which was happening at the university’s main auditorium to which, “outsiders” had access to. This was after the order that they gave where they would not allow “outsiders” to enter.

Many of the people were unfamiliar with the administrative policies in the university and the possible repercussions. The organising committee had to make many changes. Women were shouted at; there was disruption and chaos.

Despite these issues, the organising committee of Spectra considers the Pride, a grand success. “This was the first time I got an opportunity to take part in a pride march and I am happy that I could be there. Amidst the difficulties caused due to the administration the crowd that turned up for the event made it a great experience. I never expected it could be organised here,” said Ashish James, a student of MA English, who took part in the Pride.

“I always found the energy contagious; finding fellow humans who together were expressing the freedom to love with no boundaries was an amazing experience,” said Divya who participated in such an event for the first time.

“It gives me immense happiness to be a part of the pride march and see people taking pride in themselves, waving rainbow flags, advocating gay pride and just flaunting who they are. It was a wonderful experience”, Jayshree Das said.

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Image source: Spectra/Facebook
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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.

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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.

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.”

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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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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.

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