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Crossing Lines: What Does It Mean To Love In India Today?

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In any part of the world, falling in love is an act that is tender and soft but in India, it is a rebellion. To love in India without care about its social structures is brave. I wish India becomes a country of those who are brave.                                              

 -Gurmehar Kaur, The Young and Restless

Representational image.

Love is possibly one expression which represents so many things, from sentimental Bollywood representations to an abstract religious symbolism, that it is absolutely impossible to explain it. It is a paradox. Describing love is indescribable.

But in India, love is an extremely rigid institution that requires individuals to operate within the confines of the same class, religion, caste and community.

While the poets, philosophers and thinkers relentlessly languished in their search to understand and find love, we are drawing lines to find a bond worth seven lifetimes. It seems more like a financial bond transaction than an act as complex as love. Given the circumstances, is it really possible to love? Love; that is limitless and unbounded, can it be predefined and limited? This is a reflection on the absolute impossibility to love in India without going against its socio-cultural fabric.

In The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy mentions the Love Laws: “the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much”.

Ammu (an upper caste Syrian Christian) and Velutha (lower caste Paravan) break these love laws and are punished for this transgression. Despite their suffering, they succeed in subduing the social structures that confine love within the sociocultural exegesis. As the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has cleared a draft ordinance against love jihad, there is a sense that these love laws which Roy refers to in her novel are no more being laid silently but loudly with state backing and legal enforcements. And just like Ammu and Velutha, anyone who dares to love will be punished.

This makes one ponder over why the state is so hell-bent upon regulating and controlling something as tender and personal as love. The famous Big Brother in George Orwell’s classic dystopia of 1984 sees love as a form of resilience that threatens its totalitarian regime. Any kind of individual emotion is thus a divergence from enabling this monolithic structure. Through its control of marriages and sexual mores, the Big Brother wields the power to control people’s loyalties towards itself.

Love in itself is a rebellion. When Julia passes a love note to Winston, it is the first sign of rebellion against the Big Brother. The reason why those in power wish to confine it is that love is the only possible way to dismantle a loveless state that operates on hate and bigotry. Love threatens the very foundation of this hegemonic social organisation. In these difficult times, to love is not only a personal choice but a radical act to subdue the structures that otherwise intend to limit us. If individual freedom and choice are the end-goals, crossing lines by breaking the love laws in love is the only way to make that possible.

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  1. Neeraj SK

    Aptly expressed. It is ironic how on one hand, the state is convincing citizens that their right to privacy will be safeguarded by presenting robust privacy laws while on the other hand, it is enacting laws to interfere with something so personal and private as Love.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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