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How The Lockdown Has Affected Distressed Households

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The Indian government announced a rather sudden lockdown in March 2020 in lieu of the Covid-19 pandemic. The rippling effect of the sudden move can be experienced across the country even now. The peril of migrant workers made harrowing headlines regularly, the cries of the dispossessed who lost their source of daily income went down a grand spiral of silence — a silence that does not care about the have-nots.

Amidst these visible issues, there has been an enormous elephant in the room that demands extensive conversation — all those isolated at home for whom homes are not the safest or most comfortable place.

Lockdown And Domestic Violence

There has been a steady rise in the number of domestic violence cases throughout the country amidst the lockdown. As per a report by The Hindu, “In 2020, between March 25 and May 31, 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were filed by women. This 68-day period recorded more complaints than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years.”

Youngsters, young adults and millennials who perhaps lived alone in different cities for work, studies or personal reasons were also compelled to come back home in certain cases. For many of them, domestic violence could have been one of the prime reasons for leaving their homes in the first place.

“I grew up in an abusive household. My father was an alcoholic and often beat me for my smallest of mistakes. I left home for my graduation and felt the war was finally over, but our hostels were shut and I had to return to the same traumatising house. I have been verbally abused and threatened, and I am just waiting for my hostel to open again. I have promised myself to not return to this house ever again,” stated a 20-year-old boy who is currently living with his parents in Patna due to the lockdown.

Domestic violence, physical or mental abuse are caused by multiple reasons and in case of a lockdown, when perpetrators and survivors are perhaps locked in the same household, including children who are extremely vulnerable to such violence, it becomes even more important to begin a pro-active conversation regarding the same.

As much as we encourage survivors to protect themselves and file a complaint against such incidents, the onus is not entirely on them to prevent such violence from happening. It is imperative that individuals with anger issues, low emotional intelligence or addiction issues get themselves enrolled in therapy. There are multiple government and private rehabilitation centres to help people who might have violent urges. The added pressure of unemployment, finances and post-pandemic uncertainty adds to the stress.

As for survivors, they can always prepare their own set of methods to combat violence, whatever works for them the best. Informing neighbours or trusted family and friends to contact authorities on their behalf is always a viable option. It is also recommended to have a safe word like a code with someone whom they trust because in most situations, they are threatened and monitored closely so that they cannot file a legal complaint.

The National Commission for Women’s website has multiple resources to provide assistance in these cases. They have launched their WhatsApp and helpline numbers to help women stuck in a pandemic. The Childline 1098 helpline is also effective in filing a complaint in such cases. Further, multiple local NGOs are functioning to assist in these unfortunate incidents. There is help out there, however, one should be willing to reach out for it.

Every individual deserves to be treated with respect and kindness, and no one should have to settle for anything less. It is also essential that we check on our acquaintances periodically and make sure they are fine, and if not, help them at whatever capacity we can.

Lockdown And Mental Health

The pandemic has unleashed a situation of immense restlessness, hopelessness and helplessness amongst all citizens, but it’s particularly the youth who have fallen prey to the grasp of anxiety, depression, paranoia and so on. The grim conditions of the country and the uncertainty of their future have all engulfed them into a whirlpool of overwhelming emotions that hardly give them room to breathe.

Indian parents/guardians are yet to become accepting of conversations about mental health. It is a long journey before a majority of our parents’ generation understand and acknowledge the seriousness of mental health of not just their children, but their own too.

“My parent’s house makes me feel like I’m under house arrest. My mother doesn’t understand ‘mujhe kya ho jata hai,’ and I don’t want to explain to her either because it demands a lot of energy, I feel fatigued,” says a 21-year-old woman who suffers from anxiety and depression.

Representative image.

Many student-millennials who were living on their own for education or work purposes are now stuck in homes that are not accepting of their issues. That alone can pose acute threat to someone who suffers from any mental condition as any ounce of misbelief or unacceptance becomes especially taxing and can put them down a spiral.

Parents/family members, and co-living members at large, must always try to update themselves and work on themselves to become aware of mental health issues, to become more sensitive and inclusive towards their children. It is our responsibility to provide a safe space to people and society at large.

However, normalising mental health issues in a regular Indian household still feels like a far-fetched idea and in a condition such as this, if someone feels agitated, confused or disturbed, they can always reach out for help. Emotional abuse is a massive reason for such trauma and perpetrators can be charged under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code for rendering such violence.

Doctors have now started their online portals where patients can sign up for therapy and counselling sessions, and multiple independent organisations have begun support groups, peer talks and free therapy portals. Numerous NGOs are also working to provide assistance in such cases.

The lockdown has been exceptionally harsh on members of the LGBTQIA+ community as well. The Indian society has to evolve dynamically and radically before it becomes fully welcoming, inclusive and accepting of the queer community. Due to the pandemic, the source of income of many from the community has been heavily challenged and they have received little help from the state or Central government to sustain themselves. However, multiple private organisations are working to provide them assistance and ensure their well-being.

Some members of the community are, however, living in their homes that might not be 100% comfortable for them, making them vulnerable to mental and physical violence. The Indian Penal Code has provisions to punish perpetrators who abuse or harass people from the community physically or mentally.

“In such chaotic times, staying in a house with people who don’t understand something as basic as your gender identity is extremely suffocating. I try to maintain a healthy distance from them. My HRT medication has side-effects and induces depressing and suicidal thoughts, which makes things even more difficult,” said a 20-year-old trans person, who was all set to live alone for academic purposes but now is stuck due to delayed admission amidst pandemic.

There are NGOs and private organisations that work to provide solidarity to LGBTQIA+ members in such a time, help them with counselling, and create an online community where they can find acceptance and peace. One must reach out to one of these NGOs for help.

It becomes our added responsibility to lend our shoulders to our friends and be all ears to their problems, rants and thoughts, but not at the cost of one’s own degrading mental health.

Lockdown And Special Needs

The lockdown has been challenging for disabled individuals, especially those suffering from chronic ailments such as cerebral palsy. Caretakers find it challenging to protect and safeguard them in a situation of lockdown when care homes are shut and individuals have to live with their family who might not be trained to take care of their needs.

Representational image.

They are also subject to abusive behaviour as handling them requires empathy and resources that might be hard to acquire amidst a pandemic.

“I take care of my child who is 75% paralysed. I live in a joint family with aged in-laws. Taking care of everyone and my child separately has become unbelievably difficult for me and I am unable to cope. House helps refuse to come because of fear of Covid-19 and I sometimes cannot contain myself under all these pressures,” said a 45-year-old mother of two, one of whom suffers from cerebral palsy.

Providing assistance in these cases requires skilled individuals who are patient and well-trained. This is where we need to be more vocal about the provisions that must be brought to ensure safety and comfort of such patients. It becomes our individual responsibility to spread awareness about the myths of Covid-19. We have lived for over a year with the virus, yet, misinformation floating around creates such distressing situations that become excruciatingly painful for some to cope with.

Doctors are now available through online portals and apps such as Practo, which features doctors across departments, including emergency services. Not everyone might have the resources to contact online, so they can set appointments via call, too. Disabled individuals deserve proper treatment, care and love. Each case is different from the other and going by generic remedies suggested by easy google searches is always discouraged.

It is high time educational institutes actively participate in encouraging more mental health talks on their campus and have a provision of assistance in their curriculum. Expecting proactive steps holistically is, however, a naïve idea, especially when we have already heard of accounts where students were expected to show up in a class even when a family member had passed away. In one such instance, a faculty member even called out the student ‘soft’ for not turning up in class after his father’s death. The institute in question is IIT Roorkee and the professor who said so has a resume shining with an illustrious career. Amid the ongoing pandemic, examinations were conducted virtually, which created havoc not only due to academic pressure in the middle of a health crisis, but also because of resource disparity across India.

Some institutions, however, have granted provision for counselling of its students, going lenient on attendance and postponing examinations. But the larger consensus (of students) are still expected to keep up with rigorous curricula, attend classes. Students with special needs have suffered immensely and in most cases their education has been stalled as they couldn’t avail to virtual classes. The education board of our country needs to come up with inclusive practices to facilitate the ‘study from home’ culture for these students. This disparity will affect their future and hinder their progress.

Conclusively, we must remember that there is sorrow, perplexity and despondency out there and we must be kind to everyone at all times. Volunteering for NGOs, collecting and disseminating resources and tool kits or just being inclusive, understanding and empathetic can do wonders at the moment.

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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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