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“Not Everyone Is ‘Sid’ In ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ Or Priyanka Chopra In Real Life”

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Love is the purest thing in the world which binds people together. It is impossible to imagine a world without love. But society has created barriers which prevent people from falling in love. I am going to write on barriers to love in India.

Indians have arranged the filters in a serial manner to fall in love. We have seen multiple instances when a couple in love committed suicide, or ran away from their hometown, just because they fell in love with someone, and that relationship was not acceptable to their parents. This happens every odd day in India.

Why does this happen? What forces couples to resort to suicide? What forces their parents and fringe elements to kill them? The answers to all these questions lead us to another question i.e., what prevents Indian youth from falling in love? And what prevents them from marrying each other?

Some Barriers Which Prevent People From Falling In Love:

‘Looks/Beauty’:

“He/She should look handsome or beautiful” – this is a commonly held belief. The funny thing is, I have observed, that some people experience ‘love at first sight’ only when the person is ‘fair’, ‘handsome’, ‘sexy’ and ‘beautiful’. If the person doesn’t fit in this criteria, he/she is rejected in the first place.

Age:

Sid (Akshaye Khanna) and Tara (Dimple Kapadia), an older woman, he befriends, and eventually falls in love with. (Still from the movie – ‘Dil Chahta Hai’)

For some people, age is a very important factor to fall in love. Some boys are conditioned to prefer younger girls or girls who are junior to them in college. I believe the basic reason behind this is our patriarchal mindset which continues, even today. This is not one-sided. There are also girls who prefer boys who are elder than them. Not everyone is like Sid in “Dil Chahta Hai” or Priyanka Chopra in real life.

Religion:

This is a ‘Drakensberg’ (mountain) like thing standing in between you and your choice. Couples from the same religion are married easily, as compared to those who don’t belong to the same religion. There are concepts like love jihad which have led to the harassment of many couples in India.

ये इश्क नहीं आसां बस इतना समझ लीजिए,

धर्म का दरिया है और छुपते छुपाते जाना है।

(This love is not easy, just understand this much, it’s a river of faith/religion and you’ve to pass through stealthily)

I will give an example here.

A girl and her Muslim boyfriend were targeted publicly on Facebook, along with about 100 interfaith couples. Each included a Muslim man and a Hindu girlfriend. The Facebook post included instructions: “This is a list of girls who have become victims of love jihad. We urge all Hindu lions to find and hunt down all the men mentioned here”

Interfaith marriage is like a sin for Indian society. This does not stop at religion. Many religions don’t allow couples from different sects to get married. But there are some who are breaking this norm and challenging the age-old outdated traditions.

Caste:

Any write up about marriage is incomplete without adding caste to it. Caste matters a lot when it comes to marriage and even when falling in love.

Here Are Some Examples:

“A young married couple was allegedly killed in Lakkalakatti village of Gajendragad Taluk here by the woman’s brothers for marrying a Dalit man, police said on Wednesday.”

“In an apparent instance of honour killing, a 22-year-old woman from Kalamadugu in Jannaram Mandal of Mancherial district, Pindi Anuradha, was beaten to death on Saturday night, allegedly by her father Sathaiah, brother and relatives, for marrying outside her caste”.

“Three relatives of a man who married a Dalit woman around a month-and-half ago were allegedly hacked to death by the woman’s kin in a hate crime in Naushehra village, 40 km from the district headquarters, on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday, local police said”.

Manoj and Babli of Benwal caste were brutally murdered on June 15, 2007, and their bodies were thrown in a canal near Narnaul in Haryana. Leaders of the Jat community actually seem shocked that honour killings are being questioned because according to them the very basis of this case was wrong! The community believes, those same gotra marriages, in a village, are absolutely unacceptable, no matter what the consequences may be. (Source: India Today).

“Amrutha, 21, belongs to a wealthy, upper-caste family, while Pranay, who was 24, was a Dalit (formerly untouchable). In April 2016, they married despite her parents’ objections. Now five months pregnant, she finds herself saying the unimaginable. “My father killed my husband because he did not belong to the same caste as me”.

In our society, a boy and girl with the same surnames cannot marry each other, even when they are from the same caste. Subcaste also matters between caste marriages. So this is the state and fate of inter-caste marriages in India.

The Financial Status Of The Family:

Let us get over caste, religion, status, and all the things which are barriers to love. In the end, we, humans, need love and happiness to live.

“Always marry someone with same financial status as you”. I think this is the topmost priority nowadays.  Boys and girls from cities tend to fall in love with each other as compared to those from villages (where marriages are arranged).

The colony in which she/he stays, the rate of the bungalow, bank balance, type of job he/she does, how many people are educated in the family, whether he/she is from a joint or nuclear family, and their lifestyle, are some of the parameters considered before getting married. The list may go on and on.

This happens not only in love marriages but also in arranged marriages. So, many boys and girls when choosing a partner, cross-check all these things, before confirming the relationship.

Apart from these conditions, there are other reasons, like ego, likes and dislikes and even ideology, which stops people from falling in love.

The 21st-century youth is challenging societal norms that unnecessarily prevent them from falling in love.

Even the Supreme Court now stands in favour of the queer and transgender community. The scenario will change slowly and steadily because, in India, I think traditions and culture matter the most, and it is difficult to get over outdated or harmful traditions (For example, the Sati tradition).

The onus is on the youth of the country. Let us get over caste, religion, status, and all the things which are barriers to love. In the end, we, humans, need love and happiness to live.

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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.

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.

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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 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.

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