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Who Are These Boys In The #BoisLockerRoom? No, They Are Not Strangers.

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Were you shocked after listening about the “Bois Locker Room”? Oh… I have to say that you are late, but “better late than never”. I am not shocked at all, I am shocked at you that you didn’t know about the reality which is growing around us every day.

Are you interested to know why is it happening? Let me tell you a story… not very unique but rather very, very common for every child growing up in our country. I am 27 years old and old enough to share my experiences and young enough to understand the language that people younger than my age speak.

Who are these boys in the “Bois Locker Room”? No, they are not strangers, neither are they ignorant; they are your children, our children, and a reflection of where we are as a society/community. We say we worship the women as a goddess in our country and many consider the girl child as a form of Devi, the goddess. Sorry, but the reality is far different from what we think, rather, pretend.

The reality is appalling, and it starts from our houses. Everyone—be it rich, poor, rural, urban, men, women, Hindu, Muslim, common man, public figure, powerful and powerless—each one of us is involved and responsible for this damage. If you think you are not the one I am referring to, then, congratulations to you because there are only a few left who are like you.

Does this make you uncomfortable? It should.

Now think, why, and how this kind of language and thought has generated and traveled to their minds. Contemplate a little and you will realize what they represent. It is the sheer privilege of being a man. It is the result of the objectification of women in daily life, which means disregarding women as if they are only an object and we do it every day. It starts even before their birth; female foeticide is the sad reality of our country, and thousands of girls are killed every day before they could even be born. If they are fortunate enough to be born and live, then they have to face this society.

Our society never makes their lives easy and reminds them about their identity time and again, and stereotype them as per their convenience. We tell them how to speak, how to behave, what to wear, and even what to dream. We teach them to cook; we teach them household chores; we teach them to obey their father and brother (even if he is younger); we teach them to respect their elders; but forget to teach them to have ambitions/aspirations; we forget to teach them to become independent; we forget to teach them to speak their mind; we forget to teach them to be bold and dream and dream big. We are so busy teaching the social norms to our girls that we forget to teach our boys the life lessons. We forget to teach our boys to respect women, to consider them equal, consider them partners, and consider them human beings.

We make the women machines which will only do the things as programmed. If they survive, they are not true versions of themselves; they are reduced to an object. You may disagree with me and go on to say that I am a very negative person to think like this. I am sorry, I am not being negative. I am just sharing what millions of girls go through everyday in their lifetime. If you are not convinced, then ask your mother, your sister, your wife, or your daughter, and you will get your answer. If you observe closely it all boils down to one thing, that is “power”—the joy of being powerful, establishing that you are superior, and you have the right to dominate and get the work done as you want and use them for your pleasure.

Data speaks for itself. In India, one rape case is reported every 15 minutes, one acid attack reported every day, and every third woman since the age of 15 has experienced domestic violence. India has only 924 females per 1000 males. Across India, around 40% of girls in the age group 15–18 years drop out of school and colleges. The female literacy rate of India is 65% which is 17% less from its male counterpart. Female labor force participation in India is around only 26%. Female representation in the Loksabha is less than 15%. These are not just a coincidence, but a pattern which is depicted and followed by our society.

Don’t be under the impression that these are prevalent where people are uneducated, uncultured and that this is not your problem. By doing this you are only passing the buck and not accepting the truth, and making a fool out of yourself.

I studied in IIT Bombay, one of the esteemed engineering institutes of India, and you would expect some decency and thoughtfulness in language from the students of this institute. But the reality is that the institute is also the microcosm of our society living in the confined campus. I was shocked to hear when a group of friends (boys) were passing sexist comments while conversing among themselves and casually asking a friend who was sitting quietly, “Arre itna dukhi kyu hai, rape ho gaya hain kya tera” (Why are you so sad, have you been raped?). Does this sound normal to you? It shouldn’t. This was happening in the best institute in our country. Now you can imagine the normalization of rape culture in other places. This is horrifying for me and it should be for you all as well.

Image only for representation.

We have a list of famous phrases and sentences which are not restricted to our film scenes but are being used and said very proudly almost every day. Have you heard, said or appreciated these lines?

Ladki hain kya? (Are you a girl?)
Chudiya pehni hain kya? (Have you worn bangles?)
Mard ka baccha hain to “xyz” kar ke dikha? (Do, if you are a man’s child.)

I am sure you might have come across these lines; and this is not enough—we do have a comprehensive list of Bollywood songs which makes the issue even worse, but no complaints, because films are the mirror of our society. It is we who love the songs which objectify women. It is we who love the people who make this kind of songs. It is we who dance on the tune of cheesy and misogynistic lyrics. It is we who shamelessly make our children dance on the same songs in the parties, homes, and school functions—then how can we expect that our children will be responsible people, informed youth, gentlemen, and will respect women.

We can’t except a different behavior from our children, when we are guilty of not following what we preach, when we are so busy in our lives that we forget to spare time for our children to talk and let them realize/know/teach the values of life. We forget that when we say “Ladki hain kya?”, “Chudiya pehni hain kya?”, or “Mard ka baccha hain to “xyz” kar ke dikha?”, then essentially we are diminishing or ridiculing the place, power, love, and respect for our own mother, sisters, wife, and daughters.

We forget that Maa Durga (Goddess Durga) who symbolizes power and courage is also a girl. She also wears bangles and she is the one who killed the demon Mahisasura. We forget that Maa Laxmi (Goddess Laxmi) who symbolizes wealth and abundance is also a girl; she also wears bangles. We forget that Maa Saraswati (Goddess Saraswati) who symbolizes knowledge and wisdom, is also a girl; she also wears bangles. We have a lot of inspirational characters in our scriptures, history and in the present time, and have the ability to make India safe and the best place for our women and a girl to be born.

Later, a clarification in the case is reported here.

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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.

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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.

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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