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Despite Legal Recognition Of Trans People, Menstrual Policies Are Not Gender Neutral

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

There is a serious need for us to look at the policies surrounding menstruation and its allied issues from a gender-neutral lens. In India, even though there are a few menstrual health policies in place, they do not take into account that there are menstruators apart from women and adolescent girls. The fact that transgender and gender nonconforming people menstruate too is often overlooked and is missing from the mainstream discourse.

While the Supreme Court in 2014 recognised transgender as the third gender and gave directions to provide them with basic public amenities such as public washrooms in community spaces, hardly any state has implemented the same so far. Delhi has been the only state to include transgender in the policy scheme of building public washrooms.

However, it is important to highlight that when it comes to various schemes and policies around menstruation, our policymakers have missed the gender-neutral aspect. For instance, the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan Scheme was modified in 2013 to include components of menstrual hygiene such as clean and safe community spaces tor menstruating women and girls, and the inclusion of incinerator in the government schools.


Similarly, there are various other policy schemes by various Ministries of India. For instance, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had introduced a scheme called the Sabla, which focused on providing awareness around menstrual health management for adolescent girls through Anganwadi centres, and empowering women by improving their health and nutrition. The Ministry of Human Resource Development had introduced a scheme called the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan that focused on improving school attendance rates by providing necessary infrastructure in schools such as public washrooms for girls, installation of incinerators for menstrual waste management etc.

However, the problem with these policies is that there is a gap between policy implementation or formulation and service delivery. This is why most of the MHM policies exist only on paper and have not turned into reality. For instance, over 21,000 government schools in India do not have girls’ washrooms even today. At least 23% of the girls drop out of their schools when they hit puberty due to the absence of washrooms in their schools. Adolescent girls in India miss at least 20% of their school year because of lack of access to period products and also clean washrooms in community spaces.

Most importantly, what these policies don’t take into account is that not all menstruators are women and girls. There are practically no policies for menstruating transgender and gender nonconforming people, which further worsens the situation for them as they are the ones who are severely affected by the issue of period poverty. As it is, they are discriminated against and on top of that, if they menstruate, they are subjected to various social stigmas and not taken into consideration when menstrual health policies are formed.

Even in recent times, when the government launched the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana, under which all women and girls would be provided sanitary pads at a subsidised rate of Re 1, transgender and gender noncomforing people were missing from the policy discussion. These gaps need to be addressed and there is a serious need for policies to be more sensitive and inclusive to make menstruation a non issue.

Menstrual schemes should focus on transgender and gender conforming people, too, thereby making period products accessible to them as well at subsidised rates. Public amenities such as washrooms and period rooms (a private space for menstruators) should be expanded for all menstruators. Not only should the number of public washrooms be increased, but also they should be well-maintained and inclusive for all, thereby making them period-friendly and gender-neutral.

By period friendly, we mean that all the washrooms should have pad vending machines, proper lighting, water supply, dustbins and proper locks in the washrooms to ensure safety and privacy. And by gender-neutral, we mean that washrooms should be accessible to transgender and gender nonconforming people, too, as they are generally discriminated against when they try to use the generic existing washrooms.

Another aspect that should be looked into is providing menstrual education to all school children irrespective of their gender because it is important for everyone to be aware about the gender neutral aspect of menstruation in order to treat it as a normal biological cycle and not as a label or a woman’s identity. Hence, there is a serious need for people to understand that menstruation isn’t a symbol of womanhood and everyone has the equal right to access period products and the basic right to sanitation irrespective of their gender.

If you, too, believe that there is a serious need to make our menstrual policies inclusive, then kindly sign the petition so that these concerns can reach the decision makers.

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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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