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“Just Another Hoax”: India’s Role In Heralding Gender Equality

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The mighty Maya Angelou once stated, “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realise and remember that everyone else and everything else are God’s creation.” The words are as fierce as her; however, it’s almost a mythical statement in contrast to the real-world scenery. There’s a limited scope that these words will ever be considered and put to action rather than used as just another quote. If I have to relate this to gender and talk about men, women or transhumans, I feel women and limitations are synonymous. 

There is no second gender under so much supervision as women. All her moves, from waking up in the morning till going to bed are supervised by society and based on her performance; she is labelled accordingly. In one of her masterpieces, Virginia Woolf wrote, “Women — but are you not sick to death of the word? I can assure you that I am.” 

Let us start with agreeing to what she said because being a woman is perhaps the most tiring task for a woman. The world will sympathise with her being a woman redundantly, read and understand the plethora of feminist text yet won’t refrain from the task of dominating/harassing opinionated women in real life scenery and to bring more disgrace will also sympathise with the clan as a whole. Isn’t it obnoxious? It is.

A woman with opinions gets judged for everything she does. The truth is, her conventionality allows her to accept it, and the unconventional women who try hard to battle with society feel more tired every passing day, and that’s about it. 

Being a woman myself, there are two ways I can frame this article. Possibly more, however, now I have two options running in my veins. First, write a novel on this topic which is possible and easy, another, keep the article short and crisp owing to the reader’s demand. Indeed it is tough for a woman to have control over her emotions while she is given a chance to write about her situation in this male-dominated world.

Now getting to the point more precisely, and taking the opportunity to quote Carol Hanisch’s famous slogan “personal is political”, a woman’s body is a political playground for the patriarchal society. I want to talk about my humble observations regarding the body politics that a woman is subjected to from the day she is born until she breathes last. Sometimes, not even then, as there are curious men who draw pleasure from dead female bodies as well.

Given her biological features, every woman remains threatened since birth. How obnoxious is this world where no woman goes sexually unharassed in her lifetime? As if she is nothing but a property owned by the opposite sex. A girl in her adolescence is bound to experience groping, and needless to say, even parents are casual about it because they grew up in a similar environment. 

Leave out sexual harassment; an unmarried woman is not expected to make love or have any sexual partner in our country. Not that no one does it, but the action is nearly looked upon as a criminal offence, and once caught, the repercussions are vindictive and miserable. 

Society considers it a crime — because in most parts of India, especially in rural areas or among the proletariat class, a woman being caught having sexual relations with men before her marriage is called derogatory names to offend her existential choices — however the man or all the men she has had a physical relationship with hardly face any judgement as such while she goes through a lot of humiliation in her life for her choices. Does that mean the men didn’t enjoy a moment of pleasure at all while she was enjoying it? Weird!

Lest you miss out, if her relationship with a man breaks up and she marries someone else, she must keep her head down while the man who married her or anybody from his family calls her names or shouts at her in public. 

They may very well choose to hit her without prioritising much about the Constitution Baba Saheb framed for “every” Indian citizen — because our theocratic society that has celebrated the birth of “Male” since ages has its own set of rules prepared in regards to behavioural attributes of women and her relation to a men-centric world.

Anything beyond that listed set of regulations makes her an anti-social in the society’s observation and gives a free ticket to everyone (men, women and family members as well) in society to put her through various acts of violence to punish her and mould her so she acts as per the normative rules that have been set. Rules that definitely are patriarchal and in a way consider women nothing but slaves to the men, carrying the legacy of Gender violence forward.

In terms of moral norms, when a woman reaches a certain age, she is expected to be married off. Marriage is a sanctioned and legitimate forum for all her physical needs. Any woman who breaks this stereotype ought to face derogatory connotations and judgments based on her promiscuous self.  

Let’s say a woman is single, yet, has an active sexual life is assumed to be “available” to everyone (everyone here implies men of any age who is sexually woke), and this goes beyond saying, it’s mostly against her consent that her body is used for male satisfaction. Manufactured consent is in no way equal to what consent means in actual shape and form. Even if it’s not a direct physical interaction, an unmarried woman seems far more approachable by the world than a married woman. If this is not chauvinism, what is?

Fairness products have for long been sold in our country.

Having said that, let’s not miss out on the contribution of consumerism in carrying forward gender inequality by destroying the naturalness of a woman and provoking them to opt for artificial products just to be attractive so they can earn the love, which was supposed to be an intense human emotion now turned into a competition, of a male counterpart. Tell me you didn’t notice anyone in your proximity from previous generations using fairness creams. With so much progressiveness brought into society, how they still sell fairness products in the market is definitely not unbelievable but sure is unfortunate.

The one reading this post right now might also be a user or at least have one member in their family that uses the products to look fair or “brighten” their skin just to save themselves from racial taunts. Skin lightening products, expensive makeover products, artificial hair, various medical and non medical techniques for breast development, botox operations and what not. The list is never-ending in the making of an artificial woman so she can be sold well in the men market.

Sorry if I offended you, dear reader, the situations are worse than my words, if you realise. A list of artificial product that makes women compete with her fellow women to “attract men”, who by default consider the entire female species a package or some food item that needs to be served on a plate well garnished.

All this hard work just for men to take the crown of patriarchy forward, or is it that we are giving up hope and succumbing to remain oppressed under the threat of powerplay? Our society has contributed to this for ages, with no hope of implementing gender equality. 

Giving 50% off on different products to celebrate International Women’s Day is simple hypocrisy. Especially with an increased number of rape cases and incidences of domestic violence being reported every passing minute in the country, I don’t expect much from men. Still, little respect towards our existence is worth asking for I guess and as far as the women are concerned they need a complete reboot or a system formatting, whichever term suits best. However, society mostly drives us by mountain breaking theories against patriarchy since epochs — only to fail us in reality.

It’s heartwarming to listen to a man talk about his stress, tension, grief or childhood traumas and it feels even better to help him get over it, however, this is but the rarest of the rare scenario. The satire is that our society doesn’t expect a man to talk about his pain at all.

Most men, even the ones who identify themselves as feminists, only talk about the world being negligent towards them, to defend their place, while a woman talks about her rights. That’s how it has been, with no progress in reality even though there are a lot of constitutional promises offered against gender violence and most importantly everywhere it is written that fundamental rights are equal to every citizen.

As per reports, the stats shows educated females are still lagging far behind from educated males.

Education being a fundamental right, I would now like to draw some attention towards the pandemic induced lockdown situation and the adversaries that women are facing and will have to meet for a good number of years post the lockdown ends. 

Let’s consider education precisely. As per reports, the stats shows educated females are still lagging far behind from educated males. The most an average Indian family does for their daughters is to provide her with proper education so she can earn her bread. Forget about all that she faces while trying to compete in the job market, the pandemic and an unplanned, not so structured Indian Government have deliberately caused a mass of female students from attending further education post the pandemic. 

Given the circumstances and the country’s economic standard, a lot of young girls are married off hither and thither to save their families from dying out of hunger. A lot of them who were already married; however, allowed to continue studies are pregnant and there is rare chance to get back to education post the pandemic ends. 

The pattern of studies that is opted by the Government these days — online education — as per reports only 29% of Indian females have internet access. No family can support the structure in the first hand, on top of that, young girls are rarely prioritised in their family to own a device. So you see, basic rights are also not equally distributed amongst the gender and this is for real that women face more inequality than men; however, men must not be ignored considering they are the privileged class. They hardly have any problems to deal with.

This write-up isn’t well framed. I wrote this out of immense pressure, trying to make some observations of our society from a practical point of view and the reports that were put out by the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) after the pandemic-induced lockdown. 

After the lockdown was officially declared on 16 March, 2020, reports from the NCW (National Commission for Women) on violence against women in the lockdown situation showed a two-fold increase every second week. According to the first report on 3 April, 2020, the NCW had received 257 complaints amongst which 69 were of domestic violence. 

I am not saying men aren’t facing problems. Still, in regards to the data reported, women’s life is much more tragic as they face physical abuse more often than men, which is in some way connected to the upbringing of a man and his mental health that remains overlooked by our society. 

Getting back to what I started with, let’s say your partner or your brother or your father is more on the feminine side with his behavioural traits. Is it okay for you to not mock him and accept him the way he is and let him live happily, with the choice of work he chooses, and refrain from calling him names that smash his confidence and pushes him towards mental trauma? So, “gender equality” is by default, a superfluous phrase.

In my opinion, gender was never balanced neither has equality ever prevailed. History teaches us that in primitive society when agriculture didn’t require the principal instruments of production like spear, lasso etc., matriarchate prevailed and with the invention of the instruments and advent of industrialisation men replaced women. 

This, in my view, is again a smart approach by the male society to dominate the women as they assume women cannot use the instruments due to physical weaknesses and taking the support of this ideology patriarchy tiptoed in the society putting women behind the curtain. Therefore the very phrase ‘Gender Equality’ is but a fallacy. 

Like matriarchate is no solution, patriarchy isn’t either and in this whole vicious circle of who’s more powerful, we are missing out on the basic fact that gender is not beyond humanity and rape or molestation is equally shameful and heinous a crime hurled at any gender. 

How many posts have you read on the recent Thoothukudi case, about Jayraj and Fenix, a father-son duo who died due to police brutality and the tortured hurled at them was no less than rape. I am afraid I can’t express in words the pain that they went through. How inhuman is it to put a baton inside someone’s rectum and as per report they were bleeding so heavy that their lungis (dress) had to be changed 5–6 times and each time the lungis were completely wet in blood. The worst part of the story is even after they died such a painful death hardly did I see any protest. The social media protests were as meek as a half-dead mosquito with a couple of hashtags trending, but that is it. 

My humble request to the readers, therefore, will be to understand the social scenario in practical form and the fact that I have written this piece out of basic observations drawn from day-to-day life I am hoping the concerns mentioned here are understood by the readers rather judging the quality of the language used to draft this. I am only concerned about creating a better space for gender politics. 

In the pandemic induced lockdown scenario, to be honest, silence seems like the only plausible thing in this world. Retreating, even when the whole world is burning, might be the only way to win some wars so deep-rooted, like that of Gender inequality. Here, I am retreating, neither with a sword nor a pen but on a keyboard that has become a part of my daily life these days.

Thanks for taking patience in reading till the last, I choose not to edit the article reread or even worry about exposing my vulnerable side too much if at all I have done that, while in the flow of writing this article. Gender to me is that personal and this article remains as my tribute to Carol Hanisch’s globally acclaimed slogan — personal is political besides pointing out the present day scenario in India in regards to building up Gender equality. It is by virtue of our country’s perceived notions that none of the genders are actually in good shape; however, the women still suffer the most. 

I hereby raise the demand of Gender education from YKA platform once again, right from the primary school, so the issue gets resolved amongst upcoming generation and equality is restored within every gender that is already identified and might be identified in future. 

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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