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Tanishq: It’s 2020! Why Can’t A Woman Marry Of Her Free Will?

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On October 13, a large jewellery company launches its advertisement, in which a Muslim woman is carrying a Hindu woman out of the house. The ad is depicted as if all the family members are Muslims and the woman whose baby shower is happening is a Hindu. The whole family is decorating the house and making food items according to the traditional religious trends of the girl.

But this ad took the form of a controversy when it was trolled for encouraging “love jihad”. #BoycottTanishq started trending on Twitter and all social media. Some even went as far as to ban Tanishq in India, who is at the forefront of maintaining “Indian culture”.

Now we have some questions finding answers to which are necessary. Will we now run #SaveTanishq in response to this? Or will Hindu Muslims fight for unity? Or will we intensify the struggle against Brahmanical Hindutva extreme ideology? Or will you oppose such a troll by considering love above all religions?

Historically, there has been a direct cultural dialogue between the Hindu Muslim public on the geographical background of India, in which the development of shared culture can be seen with the first Muslim settlement of Arabia settled in the Sindh region. The parallel development of the Sufi and Bhakti movement in those times served to challenge the feudal Brahminical system rooted in medieval society. A major example of this is the development of Urdu language in India, in which many compositions were done at that time, apart from this, evidence of the finest blend of the Trabiet and Arquette style in the field of structural science and art stands on the walls.

Getting married in a bourgeois-democratic country, accepting religion, adopting cultural instincts are always questions of personal decisions. But if it is a question in India that the border of this thing is being pulled by the ruling class itself, then it also raises questions on the system of democratic India and at the same time, there is a threat to India’s problematic secularism. The “problematic secularism” here refers to the Indian type of secularism in which the state has retained the right to direct intervention in religious matters to maintain its original character.

Whereas in bourgeois democracy, religion has been considered separate from the system of the state. But a widespread fascist trend can be clearly seen on a global scale, where France imposed a complete ban on Muslims wearing burqas, while an imperialist country like China has forced Uyghur Muslims to act as cheap labour. Since 1990, when an image of Muslims all over the world has been established that it is a terrorist, Hindutva reactionary forces within India started to raise their heads firmly. At the same time, it continued to work to further strengthen a rigid cultural divide in which the propaganda of Love Jihad came out very strongly which exposed the Brahmanical Hindutva character of the Indian state in a more explicit way.

“Love Jihad”, Islam being portrayed as terror, Islamic costumes viewed with suspicion, Gulf War in Central Asia starting, changing nationalist view of Kashmir issue to just terrorism. If we look at it separately, it can be very difficult to understand this reactionary system inside India.

While opposition to the spread of the US imperialist powers in the Gulf War and earlier from the Arab region was intensifying, on the other hand, the American army, with more vigour, tried to suppress Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. All imperialist alliances together weakened the new oppressed nations only in the name of “war on terror” while also paving the way for their market expansion. This wave gave an opportunity to transform the Indian Hindutva state into a heavy military zone in Jammu and Kashmir and limited the national identity of Kashmir to religion.

But he got the benefit of all this process by creating cultural distance between the masses. Which has also served to bring religious minorities inside India with fear, but also on the margins. But for the last few years, this trend has seen an increase, which includes cow slaughter, mob lynching, hurting religious sentiments.

The ad shows that a woman has chosen her life partner on her own free will, where her religious views in her family have been shown to be new to people who do all the work in her cultural way. I think that there is a clear message that love can only work on the bitterness between the two communities, which can further strengthen a common culture. But people of extreme Brahmanical tendencies are finding it a bit difficult to digest that a woman is marrying of her own free will as well as to a Muslim.

Brahminism has always been the idea of ​​establishing paternalistic domination by keeping women under control. A rigid feudal system can be implemented in an institution like family only by controlling the sexuality of the woman. In order to establish this in Manu Smriti, the character of the woman was consistently said to be inherently immoral so that a non-physical falsehood could be used to discipline the woman.

This kind of mass hatred which is being propagated by the reactionary masses is directly proportional to fear. Through fear, ruling classes are trying to create havoc and muzzle dissenting voices, which are suffering under the garb of Brahmanical forces. Rape, targeting minority culture, private militarisation create a psychological fear inside the toiling masses in India. Intensifying atrocities against Dalits, Adivasis, women, labour class, the landless peasantry are examples that these people will not all tolerate any sort of dissent.

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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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