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Homophobic Companies With Rainbow Logos Is Like KFC Fighting For Chickens’ Rights

From the moment they were first introduced, there has been something irresistible and exhilarating about the rainbow hashtags that Instagram offers for Pride Month.

The first time they appeared, I was over the moon, using them unnecessarily in every place I could. Even now, I am thrilled about them, and have often wished they were a year-round thing.

Yes, Facebook donates to Trump and is basically the right-wing’s social network—but is that really important if a rainbow ring appears around your stories every time you use an LGBTQ+ sticker?

Facebook, of course, isn’t the only company cashing in on Pride Month and claiming to stand with the LGBTQ+ public, while funding conservative organizations at the same time.

‘Pinkwashing’ is a term used for when companies, countries and politicians publicly support the LGBTQ+ community, while simultaneously harming it.

It is a term that is becoming increasingly common in today’s day and age, with more and more companies “going rainbow” every June, and then continuing to assist and finance anti-LGBTQ organizations for the rest of the year.

Corporations in India, though previously less vocal, have now begun to follow suit— but is this gesture just as empty?

Is this allyship, or just good business?

The emptiness of going rainbow, with a changed logo and a happy note about being gay, is blatantly obvious if it isn’t backed by tangible steps to create change.

Multinationals like Apple, Adidas, Levi’s and IKEA have been long-standing supporters of the queer community, with substantial donations to LGBTQ+ charities, in addition to impactful campaigns.

In India, campaigns from companies such as Fastrack, Vicks, Brooke Bond and Times of India were some of the first mainstream ones that started conversations and attempted to spark change.

On the other hand, corporations like YouTube have been criticized for censoring and being unsupportive of their queer creators, while using the same creators’ identities as bait the minute Pride Month sets in.

Victoria’s Secret, FedEx and Chick-fil-A are just some of the other corporations that have been discriminatory in the past— but the list, if searched for, is endless.

Donald Trump’s merch, in fact, has had a collection of rainbow ‘Make America Great Again’ caps, which is the equivalent of KFC advocating for the rights of chickens.

The famous LA-based festival Coachella donates to several anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, while inviting queer artists to perform every year.

In this case, what should be done? Should the musicians perform there as a way of making the queer community more visible and make thousands feel more accepted? Or should they decline because of where Coachella’s loyalties lie, and in turn, lose the opportunity to represent the LGBTQ+ community at a festival so huge, that so many young people are bound to be at?

This question is one that is difficult to answer.

While it is important to be constructive and supportive of the queer community behind-the-scenes, it is undeniable that representation is also just as essential.

Seeing the open celebration of queerness and queer identities is bound to impact those who are questioning their own gender or sexuality, and are stuck in a loop of internalized fear and hatred.

While it can be frustrating to see rainbows everywhere in June, and the lack of support from the same places all year-round, the fact that there’s a Pride flag there to begin with, is not something to take for granted.

It has taken decades of activism for the LGBTQ+ community to be included in the list of things that you need to be supportive of, in order to be a good person or organisation.

Allyship comes in different forms, and the most we can do is do our research, study the history of these corporations, and hold accountable those that only go rainbow for the sake of taking advantage of the LGBTQ+ community.

At the end of the day, it is important for the LGBTQ+ community and its true allies to remember that Pride isn’t just a celebration.

Pride is political— it is about remembering those who fought for us, and honouring them by continuing to fight for those who need it now. It is about freedom, and being able to live our truth.

Institutions worldwide may have turned Pride into a corporate-sponsored holiday, but it would be shameful to forget why this month exists and how it came about, especially in the wake of recent events, and the reminder that discrimination against marginalized communities is just as prevalent all over the world, even today.

Pride Month is, thus, a revolution—a rebellion in itself. The need for a celebration of identity is, of course, indisputable—it has taken years of work for our community to be loved, accepted and seen as normal. It takes years for individuals of the community to love themselves, and it can sometimes be hard to feel angry as you finally gain the acceptance you have always dreamt of.

But it is important to remember that this acceptance is not universal. There are still people all over the world struggling to just exist because of their identity. And as long as they are vulnerable, so are we.

In the midst of all the rainbow hashtags, colourful shoes, dresses and logos, it is vital that the real message of Pride is never diluted.

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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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