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Bi-Consent Is Not Bye Consent!

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Written by: Sakshi Arya

The assumption that bisexual individuals cheat and have sex with everyone is incorrect and abusive. Their sexual commitment and consent are as legit as any other. So let’s delve into the concept of consent amongst bisexual individuals or bi-consent.

What Is Bisexuality?

When a person is attracted to more than one gender, they are called bisexuals. The genders being referred to here are both man and woman, as ‘bi’ means two. However, bisexuals are people attracted to any or either gender and may confuse the term with pansexuality.

What Is Consent?

A simple definition of the word ‘consent’ is: seeking permission to do something. As an often brought up and essential notion, understanding consent is important. Sexual activities need consent, irrespective of a person’s sexuality or gender.

Why Talk About Sexual Consent And Bisexuality?

Image Credit: Vijaya Srivastava

Bisexual people are often abused and called names. They are told that they are confused about being attracted to both men and women. One of my friend’s boyfriends, right before their breakup, told her he was scared of her cheating on him since her bisexuality made ‘her open to business.’ He assumed she was having and could have sex with anyone without him knowing. This incident not only questioned her honesty and commitment but also attempted to erase her sexuality. Leading further to biphobic abuse.

Although, yes! The person in question may indulge in sex with other individuals but only if they want to. And it does not mean that they would cheat in a loyal relationship.

What Are The Problems And Effects of The Growing Misunderstanding, Biphobia, And Abuse?

The only allegedly defined genders, male and female, have been policed with certain rules and expectations for several decades (one can say, for the duration of the victim’s history). Because of which when a person tries to express their attraction, they’re automatically supposed to be discoursing from the preconceived morals of masculinity and femininity.

Aren’t Masculine And Feminine People Males And Females Respectively?

This is an often confused and somewhat problematic question. (Real confusion lies in this ideal, not in bisexuality!) The answer is: not really. Man and Woman can be referred to as Male and Female, respectively. But a man and woman are not the only one’s residing in the male and female canon. Based on one’s sexual orientation, they are categorized as masculine – meaning one who has an appearance traditionally only associated with a man.

On the other hand, feminine– meaning one who does have the appearance of a traditional notion of a woman. However, the traditional prescription of the definition of the words masculinity, and femininity, forms the basis of the stereotype here. The stereotype that to be masculine, you need to identify as a man and as a woman in the case of the feminine. The fact is that both are facets of each individual. Hence, a bisexual man/woman and bisexual male/female are not the same.

No-fuss explained easy:

Man and Woman: nouns used to describe a certain or group of persons.

Gender: male, female

Sexual Orientation: bisexual, trans, gay, lesbian, asexual (etc.)

It is the gender with which a person chooses to identify with and their sexual orientation, which makes them a (using bisexual for discussing bisexuality here) bisexual male, bisexual man, bisexual female, bisexual woman.

What Can We Do To Conclude For United Consent And Happiness?

Talk! A discussion that has not begun cannot conclude. Because there are no general public discussions around the theme of masculinity and femininity, their meaning remains the traditionally assumed one. Hence, the rules of behavior conventionally attached to masculine and feminine are put into action, thereby eliminating consent. It is assumed to be their prescribed societal positions, where masculine is against, hence superior to, feminine. As a result, consent is lost, and biphobia prevails, concluding an individual’s sexuality as confusion or phase.

It’s not who one sleeps with, but the moments where they have the opportunity to converse about the possibilities of who they are or might be. This helps in non-erasure and acknowledgment of the much-needed bisexual consent.

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Feature Image is for representational purposes only.

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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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