This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shrita Pathak. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Personal Is Political: Women Against Entry Of Women Into Sabarimala

More from Shrita Pathak

It is important to note that just as men can be feminists, women can support the overarching structure of patriarchy.

The personal is political has been recognised as the definitive slogan for second wave feminism. The slogan highlights the connection between personal experiences and the broader socio-political structures. A plethora of women from all walks of life participated in consciousness-raising sessions, raising feminist concerns and discussing oppression in the patriarchal structure. However, these sessions were shunned away in the mainstream as mere personal therapy. Carol Hanisch’s contested this in her 1969 essay. “Women are messed over, not messed up!” is perhaps one of the most memorable and quotable lines in her essay. She asserted that these sessions were hugely political. Concerns raised through these meetings must be paid attention to and treated as political, she argued. These “personal” concerns were indeed, outcomes of systematic forms of oppression.

Cynthia Enloe, in her book titled Bananas, Beaches and Bases (1989), claims that no one – women or men – can be seen solely as a “worker”. Everybody has specific roles to play – being a mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister, and so forth. Each such role is inherently political. Enloe’s aptly states that the political, i.e. persisting power relations create a discernible impact upon our private lives, which we believed to be isolated from the outside world. In the context of feminism, this implies that the overarching patriarchal structure becomes a key deciding factor in our private lives.

The crux of Enloe’s argument lies in how we understand the public sphere, which is rooted in concepts defined in masculine terms. From how one understands “citizen” to a “sovereign state”, the connotation remains masculine. She argues that US’ foreign policy and America’s overt tendency to romanticise capitalism stems from the entrenched idealisation of extreme masculinity. This also means the female experience often gets neglected. The international arena is treated like a dangerous place where men must act as “protectors” of women. Cooperative policies are often seen as being “gentlemanly”, whereas risk-taking as seen as manly assertiveness. Thus not only is there a negation of the female perspective, but a subordination of the feminine itself altogether. 

One can extend Enloe’s arguments to the Sabarimala issue. Many women can be seen as being against the entry of women into the temple. The right has used the example of these women to further their own agendas. It is important to note that just as men can be feminists, women can support the overarching structure of patriarchy. Perhaps one of the biggest critiques to Enloe’s theory may be seen in whether she makes the mistake of treating men, as opposed to masculinity, as the culprit (Jones, 2001, p.171).  Many women don’t see the issue of Sabarimala as being one for gender equality, but instead women’s entry into the temple being seen as anti-tradition. These traditions are often oppressive, archaic and were put into place by men themselves many years ago.

One must then wonder – if the public sphere is inherently patriarchal in nature (in 2019 India at least), then how do we escape it? This is a much more complex problem to solve. It is the same problem that motivates politicians to make public statements protecting rapists – stating that if women did not want to be raped, they shouldn’t have gone out alone at night.

Works Cited  Enloe, C. (1989) Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.  

Hanisch, C. (1969). The Personal is Political. Retrieved from: http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html

Jones, A. (2001). [Review of Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives, by Cynthia Enloe], Contemporary Politics, 7: 2, 171-175. Retrieved from: http://adamjones.freeservers.com/enloe.htm.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aniruddh Shrivastava

    I completely support these women who are against entry of women in the premises of temple. Let me tell you why. Sabrimala temple ia dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is said to be a celibate. That is why entry of women aged between 9 to 50 is not allowed. Now, keep theories of feminism and right to equality and religion aside and think for a moment. Isn’t this a simple logic?

    There are many temples in India including Attukal Bhagvathy temple where entry of men is prohibited. Did men start protesting? No. Because there are some traditions. You can not repudiate any tradition in the name of feminism.
    The problem with feminism today is the fact that the boundaries are not defined. They support the cause of women uncondionally that they ignore the basic logics and rationality.

More from Shrita Pathak

Similar Posts

By Ungender Legal Advisory

By Ankita Marwaha

By Vaishnavi Gond

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below