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#PadsAgainstSexism campaign at Jamia Milia, Delhi

March 19, 2015

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Sanitary pad with message against sexism on Jamia campus

19-year-old Elona Kastrati started the #PadsAgainstSexism campaign in her hometown of Karlsruhe, Germany.

“I thought about how society gets offended by a normal pad. I thought about it so much, the idea came to me to write quotes on them,” she says. So she did.

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Since starting her guerrilla project about a week ago, pictures of Elona’s pads have gone viral. Students of Jamia picked up on the idea too, and initially anonymously, began to stick sanitary pads with feminist messages on them, all across Jamia campus.

Some of the messages read:

“Period blood is not impure, your thoughts are.”
“Menstruation is natural, rape is not.”
“Streets of Delhi belong to women too.”
“Rapists rape people, not outfits.”
“Kanya Kumari, Gandi soch tumhari.

According to their statement reproduced below, the pads were torn down by the university administration. In solidarity, the campaign spread to Delhi University too.

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Why are sanitary pads with little notes stuck on trees and walls of Delhi colleges?

A couple of days ago, the Jamia students decided to shed their anonymity and came out with a statement. Jamia Journal says that what led them to go public was

the fact that their anonymity had led to the publication of inaccurate, and at times outright false, views ascribed to them and the campaign in the media. In order to end this confusion, they decided it was time to make themselves known to the public and let the people know who actually speaks for the campaign.

Here is the text of their statement, taken from Jamia Journal.

Jamia Student Activists Statement to the Press

We, the initiators of Pads Against Sexism- Delhi, have agreed to reveal our identities due to the fact that our anonymity has led to many false interviews about the movement being given to several different media outlets by individuals not directly associated with the campaign. We would like to reveal ourselves in order to end the confusion of who is responsible for this initiative so that no fabricated statements are assigned as our ideology.

We would like to first and foremost address the act of putting up sanitary pads in Jamia Millia Islamia and them being taken down.

We acknowledge we had not asked for permission from the University Administration to place the sanitary pads with messages on them around the campus. Due to the lack of permission we respect the action of Jamia Guards pulling down the sanitary pads as they were only adhering to the rules and regulations of our esteemed University. We understand that this in no way reflects on how Jamia Millia Islamia University feels about sexism in India and hope that any and all individuals will not associate this action with the ideology of Jamia Millia Islamia. We had the opportunity to speak with one of the guards who removed the sanitary pads and were able to discover he was a strong supporter of the message of anti rape culture and an end to stigma attached to menstruation. Once again he was helpless as it was us who did not seek permission for our actions.

We would like to highlight the fact that our campaign is meant to be a peaceful one to spread awareness against sexism. We did not mean to intentionally offend anyone, only to create conversation and debate within our college campus related to rape culture and stigma attached to menstruation. We have taken our campaign off-campus and onto the streets of Delhi to spread awareness.  Our major reason for requesting anonymity was so that we could allow the general public to view and react to this campaign without placing a face to the campaign. We did not recreate this initiative in Delhi for attention, only for awareness and as a way to push forward the conversation and debate of gender equality and anti rape culture in India.

We closely monitored the reactions of the public on the many different articles that were published all across social media to see the thought process of the general public. We discovered most negative responders believed this initiative to have been started by hardcore “feminazis” and men haters. We request those individuals and those who didn’t comment but who also feel the same way to introspect and remove your prejudice.  This campaign was started by four students who live in a society where women cannot always walk down the road  after 8 p.m., without concern for their safety. We are among many who are disgusted and horrified by the December 16th gang rape of Jyoti Singh and all the rapes that have continued to occur after it. Students who watched their country ban a documentary about the gang rape named ‘India’s Daughter,’ which showed how some in our society think. We are students who strongly believe our society needs to stop being passive about rape culture and accept gender equality. Label it feminism or call it being a sensitive human being, we understand the need for equality and safety for women as well as an end to violence against women and we hope to continue to fight for equality with the support of all of you.  We request all the speculators to introspect about their reactions towards the use of sanitary pads and whom they believed responsible.

It is crucial that the public is aware these actions were not taken solely by a group of females, but by a combined force of concerned men and women who believe in the foundations of feminism; equality of the sexes.  This campaign was started by two men and two women who believe that speaking up and taking action will spark the fight against the inequality and rape culture that is present in India. Our goal is to make the common bystander present and sensitive to the issue of rape and sexism so that everyone, regardless of their gender will be safe on the streets of Delhi and India.

We are Mejaz, Kaainat, Mohit and Sameera; we do not hate men, we believe in gender equality and an end to violence against women.

In Solidarity,

Pads Against Sexism – Delhi

[Balatkaar ka Sanskaar, Samaaj ka maar (A culture of rape, is the death of society)]

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    March 25, 2015 8:57 AM

    Absolutely shocking. Jamia students issued show cause notice by Proctor.

    http://m.ibnlive.com/news/jamia-students-served-show-cause-notice-for-putting-up-sanitary-napkins-across-campus/535692-3-244.html

    The Chief Proctor said, “We are not against the message but against the means used. We acted after receiving verbal complaints from students and staff. If the matter becomes severe, we will call for a disciplinary committee to look into it.”

    You really dont get the point, Sir! The ‘means’ IS the message!

  2. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    March 25, 2015 9:01 AM

    Democratic Students Federation in JNU has also started the #padsagainstsexism campaign. Here is their leaflet:

    Break the Taboo, Break the Silence!
    #PadsAgainstSexism

    24.03.2015

    19-year old Elonë Kastrati started the #PadsAgainstSexism campaign in Germany. She was vexed by the fact that a large section of the society was offended by a normal sanitary pad. She wrote quotes on the sanitary pads and put them in public places, photos of which went viral. Students of Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) picked up the campaign and pads with feminist quotes were stuck all across JMI. A solidarity campaign was initiated in some colleges in Delhi University too. Some of the messages read: “Imagine if people were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods”, “नारी मुक्ति सबकी मुक्ति”, “Feminism means equality not men hate”, “मेरा पहनावा तुम्हारा टिकेट नहीं है”. In solidarity with this campaign, we have put up posters and sanitary pads with feminist quotes written on them all across the campus. Many posters are being torn and pads are being removed. Who is afraid of sanitary napkins? May be the same people who took down the rainbow threads put on trees by queer activists.

    There are various myths surrounding menstruation. Sanitary napkins are wrapped up in layers of newspapers and plastic bags (usually black) and need to be hidden from the eyes of the society. There is shame and stigma associated with periods and it’s not talked about in public. It’s not treated as what it is- a biological function indicative of woman’s reproductive health, but instead as a curse that one has to bear. In many places, menstruating women are kept isolated from the household as they are considered ‘untouchable’ for that period of time. Menstruating women are often considered impure and are not allowed to worship or enter religious places. It is a common practice to keep a women during her periods out of the kitchen.

    Taboos related to menstruation are not specific to India. Myths associated with menstruation are as universal as menstruation itself. In ancient Europe, it was believed that food would get spoilt if touched by menstruating women. Some sections in Africa believed that menstruating women cannot cook for her husband for he might fall ill or die. There is evidence of menstruating women being confined to a hut or a cage in South America and New Ireland. All these are not things of the past. Recently in a SEZ in Kerala, the more than 40 female employees were stripped searched by the female supervisor to find out who had left a used sanitary pad in the toilet. The collective silence on the issue has helped to maintain the myths and put restrictions on women during ‘that time of the month’ along with hundreds of other restrictions that are already there by virtue of being a woman.

    The way to confront this issue is to speak up. To speak up against the age-old taboo of menstruation, against sexism and patriarchy, against sexual violence and rape. To reclaim (or rather claim) the spaces which have been restricted for ages owing to certain norms and societal values. To get rid of the burden imposed on women to carry the ‘honour’ of families and entire communities. To challenge the notion that a woman needs security and must be protected because she is a mother or a sister to someone. This campaign asserts the demand of freedom for women, without having to worry about some concocted notions of ‘sanskriti’.

    This campaign gains importance in the context of a concerted attack on women’s rights in particular and democratic rights in general. After the Modi-led BJP government has come to power, the Sangh Giroh has intensified its communal campaign across the country. The campaign of ‘love-jihad’ and ‘Bahu lao, beti bachao’ are directed against religious minorities and thrives on restricting the choice of people to love and choose their partner. The Hindu Mahasabha went berserk and announced that it will marry off lovers found holding hands on the Valentine’s Day. The ABVP also undertook a campaign in universities against the “menace of live-in relationships”. BJP ministers and the Ramdevs of the world are busy propagating cures for the disease called homosexuality!

    The Modi government has remained obedient to the RSS and supported all such campaigns. They have made attempts to silence the voices of dissent. Banning the documentary “India’s Daughter” on the pretext that India’s image will take a beating on the world stage is one of many examples. The documentary exposed how deep-rooted the malice of patriarchy is, even in “pillars of democracy” like the judiciary. The Sangh brigade is not alone in having a flawed understanding of gender and equality. Political leaders from Right to Left have displayed their warped understanding of gender from time to time. Islamic Fundamentalist forces are no better. Recently in Bengal, a football match for girls was cancelled after some maulvis raised concerns over the short dress of football players.

    This phase of attack on gender rights has also been a phase of resistance. New forms of protests have been emerging and trying to take on the powers that be. The protestors have risen above narrow sectarian boundaries and stormed the streets in different parts of the country. Be it the 16 December anti-rape movements in Delhi or the hokkolorob movement in West Bengal, students and youth of the country have shown that they will keep fighting for their rights. Protests like ‘kiss of love’ and ‘mock marriage’ outside the Hindu Mahasabha office have been successful, despite claims from a section of the Left (SFI) that such protests are anarchic and unreal.

    The #PadsAgainstSexism campaign in JNU is in solidarity with the struggle for gender justice across the world. This is a statement against the presence of sexism in day-to-day life in spaces ranging from academics to sports, from politics to media to practically everywhere. This is a protest against moral policing. This is a resistance towards the numerous incidents of sexual harassment in universities, in public transport systems, in public places and at home. And the victim-blaming after the incident. We stand for the rights of dalits to resist the diktats of the khaps. We stand in solidarity with the women who face sexual assaults in places like Kashmir and the North East, where the offenders are given protection by laws like AFSPA. We speak for Suzette Jordan who died in Kolkata after constantly being referred to as the “Park Street rape survivor” while her rapists are still roaming scot-free after the Chief Minister dismissed the case as a deal gone wrong. We stand with the ongoing movement against the rape of a 71-year old nun in Kolkata.

    Taking inspiration from the JNU student movement which struggled for the formation of a body like GSCASH, built agitations against the incidents of sexual violence and hate crimes outside the campus, fought for breaking taboos and installing Sanitary Pad dispensers, we prepare for the attack on the GSCASH by laws like the Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Bill. And for larger battles against the ever-increasing commodification of women in the neoliberal world accompanied by regressive forces which would like women not to cross the laxman rekha. When forces of patriarchy are trying to coerce us into silence and oblivion, we shall fight back with all our might. #PadsAgainstSexism is just another way to raise our voice, to break the taboo and to make the deaf hear.

    Sd/- K Fayaz Ahmed, Vice President, DSF
    Riya Raj, Joint Secretary, DSF

Trackbacks

  1. #PadsAgainstSexism - Indiatopia
  2. Come And See The Blood On My Skirt: Students Take Menstruation To The Streets
  3. #PadsAgainstSexism | indiatopia
  4. 2015 Was the Year of the Period, and Happy to Bleed and Pads Against Sexism Are on It

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