Sexuality Education Workshop in Kannada – Mysore

boy giving flower to a woman

Our day began as early as 5:30 am on a Sunday when Charu picked us- Jasmine, Kiran and Aruna up. Jasmine had earlier insisted that we bring Kiran along since the presence of a man changes the way young boys listen and respond to a session, especially facilitated by women. I have learnt this to be true myself.

We landed up in Mysore where Chaitra and Mangala guided us into the community where Buguri is situated. The amount of space there for children amazed an urban space person like me which allowed me to look more into how spaces and behaviours, especially of children are so intertwined. Buguri Mysore is a tiny space and decorated very beautifully with art works made by the children. The atmosphere felt extremely warm and inviting.

There were about 15 children in the age group of 9-16 years and their curious younger siblings peeping from the window, who were ready for the workshop to begin. They were clearly prepared earlier for the session, seeming very eager and some, having skipped their breakfast. The 4 of us had squeezed ourselves between the children along with Chaitra and Mangala. Jasmine had already begun asking their names and it amazed me how in 10 minutes she had managed to remember most of them! She was also asking them who their favourite actor and actress were, later corrected by the children to ‘heroin’. At this point is when I realised that the session had already begun. Seemingly effortless and quietly warming up the children. The idea seemed to get the children to speak. The following questions were about make-up, what makes an actor ‘average’, beauty parlours, bullying and love. The role of gender and the opinions of the boys and girls were addressed subtly and with very minimal judgement. Jasmine was also careful not to ‘correct’ what politically may seem as ‘wrong’ answers.
The girls seemed to share very similar ideologies on these topics bordering feminism. Their responses and standpoints being very mature for their age. While the boys, had very mixed responses from- girls as bullies cannot be given a second chance, boys can be; boys should say no to dowry; boys don’t wear make-up because they aren’t girls. And interestingly, there were moments of exchange between the boys who answered differently trying to get one to see the other’s point of view. And this happened very conversationally.

Audio Podcasts as a tool

 

These discussions were combined with the playing of 2 podcasts made by Hidden Pockets followed by a discussion of the same. One podcast was on bullying in a school discussed between two friends that was later escalated to the faculty who handled it in the school assembly without outing the bully. The discussion followed with the children stating how important it is to address an issue in a more general sense in a school space rather than picking out the child at fault resulting in their embarrassment.

The second podcast was on growing up through an introduction to menstruation explained by a mother to her daughter with the growth of a tree as a metaphor. It also addressed changes in the body of teenagers and reassuring that changes are normal. The children reacted by discussing how some of them and their older siblings now have pimples.

This on one hand, with the verbally strong, there were some children who were very shy. Jasmine opened out to them an option of writing down their thoughts and queries without a need to mention their names. This was more than welcome in the group.

This time they took to write also meant that some would sneak out for a quick snack!
Soon after, Chaitra began to read the questions and I was wondering what this session had spiraled out into. The answers would definitely mean another session! The children were eager to know more on a range of subjects- child marriage, menstruation, friendships and medical help. Jasmine patiently responded to them all also keeping in mind to be sensitive while addressing the group as some content may not be suitable for the 9-10 year olds in the group, to be spoken explicitly.

We ended the workshop very warmly with Chaitra and Mangala handing us crepe paper flowers made by the children with their name tags on. As like one child said “Preeti manassinda barbeku” (“Love should come from the heart”), we left with hungry tummies and love in our hearts.

About Buguri:
Buguri (‘Spinning top’ in Kannada) is a community library for the children of the waste collectors currently in 4 locations in Karnataka- Banashankari and Hebbal in Bangalore, Mysore and Tumkur. Buguri is a Hasiru Dala (‘Green Force’ in Kannada) initiative, an organisation based out of Bangalore that works for the welfare of the informal waste collectors in Karnataka.
Buguri runs with a primary aim to work with the children in the age group of 6 to 16 years, in the waster collector’s community through books. The idea was to introduce a no-fee and a fun library space as a means to open them up to the magic of books and explore the empowerment it gives to young and fresh minds.

 

Author : Aruna

Image Courtesy : Kiran Sopanam.

Can a minor girl get an abortion in India?

4 young girls standing

Things that minors should keep in mind : 

A minor girl is someone who is below the age of 18 years old.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971, a minor girl needs written permission from her guardian to get an abortion

The MTP Act defines guardian as a person “having the care” of the minor person. Thus an adult, someone over 18 years of age who accompanies a minor girl to a clinic would be De facto guardian and could consent to an abortion on the girl’s behalf.

Things that providers should keep in mind: 

If the girl’s age and/or marital status are uncertain, the providers can proceed with the termination of pregnancy in line with the provisions of the MTP Act after maintaining complete and detailed records of the case.

It is advised to report the pregnancy as per the legal requirement under  Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 and allow the authorities to decide what actions to take.

 

Where to find health facilities for HIV and AIDS patients in Rajasthan?

an image of lego characters as doctors with first Aid written

 

Recently in Rajasthan, RSACS (Rajasthan State Aids Control Society) and Rajasthan prisons headquarters signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch HIV intervention in prisons of Rajasthan. Now this is a very crucial step towards reducing the prevalence of HIV in the state. In many parts of India, civil society organizations have been fighting tooth and nail with their respective governments to have better health facilities, especially for pregnant & lactating women, HIV positive people and people with tuberculosis. Rajasthan is one of the first states to launch this agreement.

HIV and Prisons

An NGO SAATHI has been instrumental in bringing about this change. Various studies by the United Nations have stated that the prevalence of HIV is much higher in prisons than the general population. Rajasthan has total 127 prisons and other closed settings, including 10 central jails, three reformatories, 25 district jails, 60 sub-jails and 29 open camps. The capacity of these prisons is 32,327 and current occupancy is 32,787. Rajasthan at present has 66,000 people identified as HIV positive and are undergoing treatment. AIDS prevalence rate at the national level is 0.27%, while in Rajasthan it is 0.17%, which is less than the national level. (Hindustan Times, 20th February, 2018). Though the rate is lesser than that of India, its prevalence cannot be ignored. The government has taken various measures to identify and provide treatment to PLHIV.

Therapy Centres, ART Centres, Care Support Centres 

In order to provide care, support and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS are getting benefited through 23 Anti Retroviral Therapy centers, 25 Link ART centers and 16 Care Support Centers. The free ART initiative was launched from October 2005 in Rajasthan. The main objectives of these centres are:

  • To provide prolong life and improve the quality of life among PLHIVs through CST services.
  • To Reducing the viral load in AIDS patients by taking ART regularly.
  • To Reduce HIV transmission by positive prevention concept.
  • To improve the HIV-TB coordination for early management of HIV-TB co-infection.
  • To provide care and support through counseling and care support centers.
  • Management of opportunistic infection & availability of sufficient O I drugs.
  • Post exposure prophylaxis for health care personnel working with PLHIVs.
  • Early infant diagnosis to reduce chances of spread the HIV infection in baby.
  • Reduce stigma and discrimination related with PLHIVs among Health Care Personnel as well as society level.

Following are the services available at these ART centers are free of cost:-

  1. Counseling
  2. Investigation
  3. CD-4 Test
  4. ARV Drugs
  5. O.I Drugs
  6. Knowledge of Social beneficial Scheme
  7. Condoms
  8. IEC Material
  9. Knowledge about network people
  10. Referral to Care Support Centre & other related units

 These are the Anti Retroviral Therapy Centres across the state as per RSACS:-

Though the government has taken various steps to ensure that PLHIC have access to various ART centres and get treatment but the situation remains grim for pregnant women who are HIV positive. Many newspapers have reported in the past decade how the doctors do not cases of pregnant women who are HIV positive despite the strict guidelines by the Medical Council of India and the Government to not devoid any pregnant women of the delivery services. There are safety measures that can be easily taken by the doctors and nurses while delivering a child of an HIV positive woman. The recent budget announcement in Rajasthan did not talk much about health. HIV was not mentioned at all. A better monitoring mechanism is required for all these centres to function effectively and regular counselling and training of doctors and all the health service providers must be mandatory. We need more sensitized doctors at the health facilities, especially government health facilities because getting treatment from private hospitals is an expensive affair. There is a dire need to reduce the out of pocket expenditure of people on health so that they do not get pushed under below poverty line as we all know that the second biggest reason for poverty in India is expenditure on health!

 

S.no. Name of ARTC/ FIARTC Address

1 SMS Medical College Jaipur Basement of Dhanwantari OPD, SMS Hospital, Jaipur Ph. 0141-2518630,2572290

2 Dr. S.N. Medical College, Jodhpur Infectious Disease centre, Kamla Nehru Chest & TB Hospital, Jodhpur – 342 002 Ph. 0291-2751161

3 S.P. Medical College, Bikaner Ground Floor, OPD Building, Near ANC Clinic, PBM Hospital, Bikaner – 334 003 Ph. 0151-2201119

4 R.N.T. Medical College, Udaipur MB Hospital, Opp. Trauma Ward, RNT Medical College, Udaipur Ph. 0294-2419403

5 Govt Medical College, Kota New Medical College, Hospital Kota, 0744-2471391

6 J.L.N. Medical College, Ajmer Near Orthopedic Ward, J.L.N. Hospital, Ajmer 0145-2633426

7 Govt. District Hospital, Alwar Govt. District Hospital, Alwar 0144-2346033, 2345087

8 S.K Hospital, Sikar S.K Hospital, Sikar 01572-251093, 271856

9 Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, Bhilwara Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, Bhilwara 01482-232641

10 Bangar Hospital, Pali Bangar Hospital, Pali 02932-226059

11 Govt. District Hospital, Barmer Govt. District Hospital, Barmer 02982-230369,230041

12 Govt. District Hospital, Jalore Govt. District Hospital, Jalore 02973-225090

13 J.L.N Hospital, Nagaur J.L.N Hospital, Nagaur Ph: 01582-244822

14 Hardev Joshi Govt. General Hospital, Dungarpur Hardev Joshi Govt. General Hospital, Dungarpur Fax No.02964-230203

15 RBM Hospital Bharatpur RBM Hospital Bharatpur. Ph: 05644-220054

16 BDK Hospital Jhunjhunu BDK Hospital Jhunjhunu. Ph: 01592-235025

17 Civil Hospital, SriGanganagar Main OPD, Civil Hospital, SriGanganagar. Ph: 0154-2970507

18 Govt. District Hospital, Sirohi Govt. District Hospital, Sirohi. Ph: 02972-220065

19 MG Hospital, Banswara MG Hospital, Banswara. Ph: 02962-248283

20 Sawaliyaji Govt. District Hospital, Chittorgarh Sawaliyaji Govt. District Hospital, Chittorgarh. Ph: 01472-241744

21 RK Govt. District Hospital, Rajsamand RK Govt. District Hospital, Rajsamand. Ph: 0295-2222885

22 DB General Hospital, Churu DB General Hospital, Churu.

23 Govt. District Hospital, Hanumangarh Govt. District Hospital, Hanumangarh.

Following are some useful important links for people who are seeking more information on HIV in Rajasthan:-

 

Article by: Tushita Mukherjee

Tushita is a dreamer. Outer space and astrophysics attract her a lot. She loves both machines and trees. She is currently working with an NGO. In her free time, she likes to read books and sing. She is particularly fond of Rock and Hindustani Classical music. Clicking pictures of people is something she is exploring these days.

Podcasts – the future of story telling

woman with a headphone and mic

We recently were part of the Radio Festival 2018 as podcasters. We were thrilled to be able to discuss future of podcasts in India and how podcasts could help revive radio.

Podcasts are online shows that can be downloaded to any personal mobile device, or streamed online. Simple enough. They have been referred as the future of radio and might even alter the way radio have been streaming information.

In India, radio is still considered one of the biggest source of information for people living in tier 2 and tier 3 cities and towns. Radio is able to reach and connect to different parts of the country, where other source of information might not have reached in the past.

In the recent years, mobile has been able to penetrate some of these unreachable parts of the country. With the number of mobile towers that are getting erected in the rural parts of the country, people in the rural areas have more access to mobiles. So there is access to the infrastructure for the information, but content of the information is very much still limited.

Present of Podcasts 

Radio also for the longest time in public memory has been doing something similar. It has been producing content in mass for general public and has been reaching to people in different parts of the country. So what is different about podcasts?

Podcasts decentralize the power of content creation, and let common person enter the domain of knowledge production. Audio Podcasts does not require technical expertise with regard to infrastructure. It requires some equipments and some passion for audio content.

It is one of the by-product of the internet which has allowed people from all walks of life to enter into knowledge production business.

Podcasts, let user run into details and lets you play with details. It is a medium, which works on details without having the trouble of visualisation. Matters of representation is totally dependent on user’s imagination. Imagination is the key in audio podcasts. Audio podcasts play with user’s imagination and at the same time provide them with power to recreate stories and content in a manner they are most comfortable. Focusing on audio only forces user’s imagination to fill in the blanks.

 

Future of Podcasts 

India has so many traditions of storytelling. It thrives on oral archives and for the longest time oral conversations were one of the methods of transmission of knowledge. Radio has been an extension of this, where communities were connected by a common thread of information, which was mostly controlled by state. With privatisation more private players got into this domain and with internet, it opened spaces for citizens to become the creators and archivers of stories. It just slightly shifted its storage space – from direct human interaction, to radio transmitters to finally an equipment one holds on to their hands – mobile device. Our stories are still living and thriving amongst our spaces.

More and more people getting active on podcasts production. In India the knowledge production is still limited to elite class and the cities, but the dissemination of these podcasts are definitely seeping in different classes and demographics. One of the disruption brought in by podcasts are the fact that a lot of marginalised communities have access to a range of content and can make choices. Members of these communities with personalised access or small group access can listen to various content in their space and time. Radio has always been seen as a source of education where mass knowledge was shared for benefit for the society. This content always had a certain kind of approach which pushed for public policies which mostly re-iterated patriarchal notions of the society. Since the source of knowledge production was state, there was not enough space for dissent.

This is where podcasts present the future, it lets the individuals take on space in knowledge production, and provide an alternative, or different types of narratives within different platforms. At a time, when radio has been completely taken over by Bollywood songs, the long  oral form has been pushed out of .

Check our podcasts here : 

At Hidden Pockets Collective, we believe that audio podcasts has a huge potential in the field of sexual and reproductive health and can reach places which are generally kept away from knowledge production. It is cost-effective and involves fewer resources and time. It is a great concept especially for young people who would like to create their own content.

Where is Cyber Cell in Bangalore?

a sketch of women and some objects

Cyber Crimes are on rise on social media platforms. More and more young people are becoming victims of it. There has been an increase in number of cyber crime cases on other online platforms as well. There are various recourses that a victim can choose in such a scenario.

In such a scenario where does one go to file a complaint?

In Bangalore, Cyber Cell is at Palace Road ,inside the Carlton House, in the CID Headquarters. We went looking for this space.

 

BDA 2031 Master Plan Consultation

BDA 2031 Master Plan Consultation

                                                                                                  By The Bachchao Project and Hidden Pockets Collective

Our Intention behind this

The way to build an inclusive city is to understand the diverse needs of the people interacting with the city. Every city has an governing body to draft plans, these plans essentially used to shape the work and infrastructure in the city over a period of time. Every few years when new plans are formulated, these plans are released for consultation to the citizens of the city.  These are opportunities for citizens to engage and shape their city to their needs.

When BDA released the master plan for 2031 we saw this as an opportunity to look at the gendered needs in the city and highlight the same. This is the first of our efforts to be more involved in the City Plans.

Our observations :

In our analysis of the BDA Master Plan, we realized that most of the draft of the planning is based on a concrete understanding of a city, which is focussed more on developing spaces for industrial purposes without reflecting the lived experiences of people living in these spaces.  The plan is more focussed more making the cities more functional without looking at some of the problems presently being faced by the people living in these spaces.

We have based our observations on the maps provided in the BDA 2031.  With regard to land use, there is a need for more public audits and data collection. Data is insufficient and does not accurately locate some of the spaces.

The proposed city planning does not attend to needs of all persons living in these spaces. While the BDA has considered traffic, emergencies and disasters; safety as a parameter has not received any mention in the document. Based on experience, we can identify some of the spaces in the city, which are densely populated and some of these spaces have reported several harassment incidents and are considered unsafe for eg: the petta area right in the center of the city and the city bus stand. However safety has not been considered and this has not reflected in the urban planning of some of the spaces. These are just few spaces we could easily point out but there are several such pockets in the city. While the master plan has looked at all the available data sources when it comes to emergencies, disasters and even of archaeological importance. They have failed to look at any available safety indexes and nor have initiated conversations in that direction

Similarly while considering the infrastructure of the city. In area zoning regulation there is mention of width of the road, but indicators like street lighting and footpaths for pedestrians which can be some of the markers for safety concerns in an area is missed out.

In a city like Bangalore, which has a growing concerns around migration, there is no mention of shelter homes for different communities. They have not received any place in area zoning regulation. Not just shelter homes for different communities, shelter homes for women and children were also not considered under public spaces. These spaces are important is supporting a healthy community. A city as large as bangalore should have safe spaces for survivors of abuse and people with no support systems. We thought it was odd that the plans did not consider this as a need of the city.

Bangalore is a melting point of people coming from different parts of India, who are adding to the booming economy of the city. Migration of human resources also puts onus on the city to make the city more accomodating for people who are migrating. This is often done by encroaching spaces which are allocated as public spaces.

The rising population also leads to the question of utilization of empty and open spaces to accommodate the in flow of people. We strongly suggest that the language used for interlinking open spaces and eco sensitive spaces defeats the purpose as eco sensitive spaces are not spaces meant for usage by public.

The draft mentions Public sector enterprises as lung spaces of a city, indicating that these spaces can be used by general public for purpose other than functions of public sector. This is a very limited understanding of a public space and also reduces the space which could have been accessible to general public.

There is a potential of public spaces to be point of interaction where people from different communities can interact, it can be a great space for flourishing informal sectors. There is a need to define public space with usage perspective and not just see it as empty spaces.

UNESCO defines a public space as an area or place that is open and accessible to all persons, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. Some of the structures can be  plazas, squares and parks.

More SDZs seemed to have been proposed which are not connected within the existing layout of the city.

The industrial and residential areas do not have a clear path of connection between the two sections. These spaces can become inaccessible and unsafe for people from different communities.

Public spaces also provide an opportunity to design sanitation as part of the urban planning and introduce several public toilets especially for women working in the informal sector who might not have access to close toilets in their work spaces.  Public toilet is another aspect, which failed to get notice of the planning process. This also gets linked to safety aspects in these public spaces. If public spaces are designed keeping in mind the needs of people from different communities, it becomes more diverse, attracts more people and provides the space with a community feeling, which also makes safety then as a community issue instead of an individual issue.

Need for additional Data

Through our work we also realised the need of city specific gender data. We released there were no public records of safety audits, nor there were enough material talking about experiences. The mapping of what makes women’s lives in the Bangalore meaningful was also missing.

Future Work

Through our work we recognised that the need for more rigorous and in detailed submission. Our comments were unfortunately limited by lack of time and readily available information to make it possible.

  • We plan to build a joint process for reviewing such plans in the future.
  • We also understand the need for establishing better communication with the city planning committees and to review the existing regulations and push for a more inclusive approach in them.
  • We understand the need of safety audits and the dearth of informations due to lack of it and we hope to support more community audits.
  • We also would like to build a larger community which can work and think of these issues in the gendered lines and we welcome any partnerships in this direction.  

References  

Our submission to the consultation are based on our broad learnings from :

  1. Phadke .S, Khan. S, Ranade .S‎ ,2011 Why Loiter?: Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets
  2. Citizen Labs Articles on Inclusive Cities :

https://www.citylab.com/amp/article/365541/

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/09/the-how-and-why-of-inclusive-growth/541422/

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/06/how-to-build-inclusive-cities/487322/

The Bachchao Project is a community effort to develop / support Open Source Technologies and technical frameworks with the following goals :

1. Prevention of Gender Based Violence.
2. Equal Rights for Women and LGBTQIA communities

Can Indian courts handle sexual pleasure?

a sculpture of a woman with orange on her back

The word ‘sex’ has been tainted, maligned and mostly misused within the legal institutions. ‘Sexual pleasure’ as a theme is yet to be explored within the legal jurisprudence. In Kamlesh Vashwani Supreme Court order (2014), the judge while delivering the order stated that “things like (porn) lead to prurient interests in the younger generation and are responsible for rising instances of sexual exploitation.” He was not referring to any established study co-relating violence and sexual pleasure. He was simply exhibiting sex negativity prevalent in the court rooms.

Sex negativity remains unquestioned by courts, legislature and legal scholarship. Even activist spaces have focused more on issue of sexual violence against women and have not paid enough attention to promotion of women’s sexual rights, except in the area of reproductive rights. Indian Feminism’s engagement with law has been limited to the violence aspect of sex while losing an opportunity to enter in a dialogue with ‘sexual pleasure’. If law has been used in the past as a reformatory instrument in feminist struggles, it can also be used to redefine and re-analyse feminist relations with sex (the act) and ‘sexual pleasure’

Is there is a negative approach to the term ‘sex’ in our legal system. If there is, can we replace this approach with a sex positive framework and do we tend to benefit from this exercise?

One of the immediate effects of the December 16th incident was the increase in interest taken by the commercial enterprises around safety for women. The state machineries also displayed increased interest in the safety of the woman. Legal mechanisms also took a similar route in the form of a Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 where it resorted to criminal justice system and equated justice with legal enforcement. The new law introduced a lot many categories of crimes and new relations were created between law and sexuality. In a way, Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 created more methods to protect the idea of a woman.
The increased surveillance on the women was justified in the name of safety.

The sex negativity inherent in these different initiatives ended up curtailing women instead of providing spaces for them. The new law retained the sex negative language by evoking the notions of modesty and chastity of a woman and simply expanded the range of activities that threatened or blemished this archaic understanding of female sexuality. This new law could have been the space and time to demand sexual speech, a possibility to have a sexual choice.

Many laws in India rely on the assumption that sexual pleasure merits constraint because it is inherently negative. In Ranjit Udheshi (1968) Supreme Court judgment, it was held that “obscenity by itself has extremely “poor value in the-propagation of ideas, opinions and information of public interest or profit”. The exceptions provided to obscenity law clearly lays down that if the work comes from a scholarly, literary, artistic and political (hereinafter referred as SLAP) values it will provided with constitutional protection. However Sexual pleasure derived is not itself a good enough reason and thus is not worthy of protection.

In recent case, Aveek Sarkar judgment Supreme Court while dealing with an issue of obscenity held that we need to apply the community standards while defining obscenity. The court held that “Only those sex-related materials which have a tendency of “exciting lustful thoughts” can be held to be obscene, but the obscenity has to be judged from the point of view of an average person, by applying contemporary community standards”. This was clearly a shift from Hicklin Rule applied in Ranjit Udeshi (1968) which was more about the effect of the content. Inspite of the expansion of the definition and understanding around obscenity, courts were not willing to engage with the notion of sex in a positive framework.

Sexual pleasure is considered to have poor/negligible value. Sexual speech is not considered as speech and laws curbing sexual speech are justified in name of public order and morality. For purpose of law obscenity is no speech.

If we challenge this assumption, and commence on something like sexual pleasure is valuable, can this benefit laws engaging with sexual activities?

Sexual pleasure is mostly subjective and is achieved by individuals in different ways. Value of sexual pleasure is evident by the ends to which people go and the significant unwanted consequences they endure to achieve it. Sex positive laws are laws that perceive a certain value in sexual activity and allocate some value to sexual pleasure. Sex- positive laws are laws that inherently do not assume that sex is bad thing, and focuses on other aspects in a sexual activity instead of only focusing on the sexual act. It perceives that both men and women can experience sexual pleasure and can provide their consent for the act.
If sexual pleasure is considered to be valuable and is provided equal recognition as sexual speech, it would directly affect a lot of laws which works on the principle of sex negativity. Sex positive frameworks would question the less constitutional protection guaranteed to sexual speech than speech that promotes violence. Using this sex positive framework, the piece tries to discuss effect of it on one specific law: the obscenity laws. This law prohibits sale, circulation and display of any objects that can have a depraving effect on anyone coming in contact with it.

Whenever there is any discussion around sex in legal discourse harm principle is always cited as the main reason, instead of citing sexual pleasure as a reason for the ban. In cases of obscenity, state has to demonstrate that harm is both imminent and likely to occur as a result of that speech. However an offensive material retains constitutional protection if it contains any of the scholarly, literary, artistic and political values. The law seeks to protect not those who can protect themselves but also those whose prurient minds take secret pleasure from erotic writings. Obscenity test is based on the assumption that law needs to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Law prioritizes prevention of unlawful violence over sexual pleasure. Much of the law regulates distribution to willing consumers instead of protecting individuals from exploitation.

Also most of the times, the harm is projected to be on women. There is an unspoken assumption that sexual pleasure can lead to increase in violence against women.

Sex toys are one of these objects that are indirectly affected by these laws. The fact that sex toys/ articles and such related products ‘ carry the impression’ of being ‘obscene’, any commercial dealing in such articles always carries with it a certain element of risk of attracting obscenity laws.

Sex positive framework would help us admit that sex toys can be valuable for some and there is no immediate harm. It opens up discussions around sex toys and institutions flouring around it. This framework removes the dubious distinction between sexual and non-sexual values (scholarly, literary, artistic and political values). In a sex positive framework, one can argue that sexual pleasure is also valuable and hence would require protection. It also negates the assumption that sexual pleasure result in violence against women as woman too are seen as capable of demanding sexual pleasure.
Sex positive frameworks can also help us in dealing with emotions which can be something more than offending moral values in the case of obscenity. For example, Martha Nussbaum in her work Hiding from Humanity (2004) offers an alternative method at looking at obscenity laws. She contends that obscenity laws are catering something more than the moral values. It also deals with spaces which evokes disgust and regulates it. This factor disgust has been expressed in some of our Indian Supreme Court judgments also.
—————————————————————————————————————-

CONCLUSIONS:
In most of the cases, sex can be a wonderful practise, and can be performed with consent of partners, without violating the consent of anyone. It is necessary to shift the focus to consent from the current practise of locating violence in sex.

This piece has only engaged with obscenity laws in sex positive framework. Similarly Rape laws, family laws and constitutional laws can also benefit from a sex positive framework. Positive value to sexual pleasure, not only provides us with a better definition of obscenity which is currently based on a narrow understanding of sexual speech, it also helps in developing a language of consent. Sex-negative framework has taken us up to a point where we locate the violence in sex. It does not mean sex only involves violence. It is necessary to focus on the right of the woman to feel sexual pleasure, which gets denied in a sex negative framework

A sex positive approach transforms the debate surrounding several areas of law and requires scholars to undertake a more honest assessment. It provides us with a framework for laws that recognizes the value of sexual pleasure. Theorists have demonstrated with increasing sophistication how categories in law form part of the social process, through which new gendered and sexualized subjectivities are created. Sex-positive framework helps us incorporating languages around different forms of sexualities and helps us in developing sensitive attitude towards different genders. The recent NALSA judgment was a step towards in this regard. It provides us with a model – a safer sex negotiations and a set of better practises.

Walking the New Years Eve on MG Road, Bangalore

Night on MG Road on New Years Eve

2016’s New Years Eve started with horrific images of New Year Celebrations at MG Road in Bangalore. People had gone wild, women were groped and pretty much everybody had a bad night. This is what the media wanted us to believe. For days there were national debates around women’s safety, Indian cultural values and everything one could think to spoil a party. Nobody really asked anyone about what could have been done differently. At Hidden Pockets, we were bit scared of the consequences ensuing post this traumatic night. In response, we resorted to walks. We decided to conduct a pleasure pockets walk in one of the lanes behind Christ University, a lane which was full of young people. We curated a walk, where people from very different backgrounds came together, discussed, fought and amongst all of this, walked. A lot of people questioned the nuances of safety, some of them shared their fears and some of them even disclosed their own prejudices against some communities. But we all had one thing in common; we really wanted to have fun and spend some good time together.

This was the background, so to my utter surprise when preparations for New Years Eve for 2017 began, the focus was completely on putting CCTVs, installing around 10,000 police personnels and putting barricades everywhere possible. I was amused by this focus on providing security to young women from young men. There was an almost whisper going around that this year also things would go bad. People would be assaulted. After all, Sunny Lione was banned from performing in Bangalore city. Surely, the city was not ready to handle fun.

At this same time, some of the students from research institutions and colleges from Bangalore  were getting agitated as well as saddened by the situation. They were one of those few bystanders who had witnessed the commotion at 2016 New Years Eve. Yes, it was bad, Yes, they had to protect their friends, but still wanted to go out and see the commotion. How does one make a public place safer?

Extremely tough question : How does one make a public place safer? A question that we at Hidden Pockets have been unravelling with.  How do we take back these public places, and ensure that women would like to go back to these spaces, feel comfortable and at the same time enjoy their time there. We have been conducting walks in various cities looking for this answer. Be it Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore or Delhi, what makes us leave the roads and stay inside to the extent we have forgotten public places.

As part of the solution, we decided that we would curate a walk for New Years Eve on 31st Dec 2017. Not at all an easy decision. Not something that our parents would have agreed off. Not after the media reportage of the 2016 night. There was nothing to look forward, nothing to be hopeful about.

But there were this bunch of college students who wanted to be there, who wanted to ensure these places are accessible for everyone.

After all, who were we actually scared off? 

So we started conversations, meetings, discussions, wherever possible ask those uncomfortable questions. How can we make roads safer? Who are we scared off? What if police tell us not to proceed with the walk? What if the crowd goes beyond control? What will we tell people? Why should anyone trust us?

As clearly observed, we did not start on positive note, it was a lot of self-doubt, fear as well as fear of the invisible stranger. We did not have much to hold on to, and even the optimist amongst had a tough time keeping the spirit of people up throughout these conversations. After all, women safety had become the utmost issue in the world, and here we were trying to take back a lane in a city that some of us were brought up.

 

On 31st night, most of us reached the starting point, around 2 hours before the midnight. We were completely not sure of the situation that we might be encountering. A lot of us had to back out, because lack of permission from parents, guardians and anyone who thought it was unsafe for anyone to be there at that time of the year. Remember, we are talking about New Years Eve in a metropolitan city like Bangalore in India, at the city center. Not just the guardians, a lot of us ourselves did not feel like being part of this narrative which had become completely about modern cities which are becoming decadent and about loss of cultural values. But there were some of us, who were still longing to be part of this mishmash of night, which had some real mixed signals to offer.

What is the night, if not fear of the stranger? 

Around 40 of us had gathered in front of the LIC building on MG Road. There were thousands of police everywhere with lathis. There were scores of young people around. There were plenty of people with their families also walking around and admiring the crowd, the noise and just seamless rush of people pouring into this part of the city.

I was busy noticing the strangers around. Most of them were men, walking around aimlessly, walking about in their own happy times. Some smoking, some busy taking selfies and most of them walking around in groups. As people trickled in for the walk, we started talking to each other, there were some senior people who had decided to join us and who happily told us that they had been coming for the New Years Eve as young boys, it was always like this crazy. It did surprise me. Such a waste of a night.

As the night progressed and we prepared ourselves for the walk, we did realise our original path curated for the walk, was blocked for security reasons. This is something that truly disappointed me. A beautiful path which could have been a great place for people to hold events was blocked because the government was scared of its own people. This was stupid, sad and at some level even kiddish. We still decided to continue with our walk.

The idea was simple, we will walk towards the celebrations as a group and maybe even attempt singing songs. Some of us sang, some of us attempted enjoying the sight around and some of were alert. It was not an easy walk.

With so many people running around, some people howling, some people screaming. It did get confusing after a point. Why was everyone shouting? Is this a way to celebrate an event?

We never reached the finish line. We stopped our walk in the middle of it, and decided to join the onlookers and stare at the sky. Yes, that is exactly what we did. We looked up in the sky, waiting for something awesome to happen.

 

No countdown, no fireworks, no Sunny Lione. It was not what I thought it could be.

 

This is small glimpse of it:


While I was returning post the midnight, post a walk that could have been much more, I thought about some of the strangers I hugged as the New Years approached, some of the strangers who protected me from some  men on the streets and some of the people who decided to join the walk; well they did not have anything else to do or maybe they were just lonely. I remember specifically this one girl who kept on insisting that we sing songs. While boys were howling, some of us even attempted singing “Hum honge kamyab”.

Images and Video courtesy : Sekulu Nyekha.

Events Conducted in 2017

Events Conducted in 2017

 

Walk conducted in Bangalore :

 

Gender Sensitisation workshops with Tech groups:

Hackathon by Editors Lab

Inclusive Technologies: ‘Gender Sensitisation’ workshop with FSMK students in Mangalore

BroC0de: Gender and Technology Workshop at HasGeek

Code of Conduct talks to make technology spaces more inclusive for all

Gender and Tech with Open Source Community

Gender focussed Tech Solutions

Workshops with Young People:

 

Women’s Health and The City

Does anyone ask for young people’s consent?

Logical Indian and Gender Talk

Radio:

Launching Radio Show on Sexual and Reproductive Health

International Conferences :

Unleash Lab 2017, Denmark : SDGs

APCRSHR9: Asia Pacific coming together to discuss Sexual and Reproductive health?

National Conferences, Workshops, Hackathons :

Stories and Safe spaces in our work: SAHR

Whose baby? Women, Men and Contraception

Where do women go to file cases against harassment in Hyderabad?

Building of Bharosa Center

Hidden Pockets Collective visited Bharosa Support Center for Women & Children, Telangana. “Bharosa” –Support Center for Women and Children is intended to support women affected by violence, in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace. It helps women facing physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse, irrespective of age, class, caste, education status, marital status, race and culture will be facilitated with support and redressal. Bharosa also helps aggrieved women facing any kind of violence due to attempted sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking, honor related crimes, acid attacks or witch-hunting who have reached out or been referred to the Center will be provided with specialized services.

Bharosa is an NGO working with Hyderabad City Police and the Telangana Government. It works with the Child Welfare Committee. Swati Lakra-IPS Officer is the main in charge of the center. We met  the Circle Inspector who supervises the center.

Procedure: FIR is lodged at the local police station. Then a lady constable and a male constable come to Bharosa with a request (Medical request along with Form 161).  It is compulsory for the police stations to come to Bharosa or transfer the cases to Bharosa (Domestic violence and rape cases).

  • The first step at Bharosa is to register the case. Then victim is sent to the counselor, most of the counselors at Bharosa are Clinical psychologists.
  • The second step is to record the statements. If the victim is below 18 or very young, then there is a room for children where the child would be taken along with the mother and the counselor and then the statement is recorded. The Sub Inspector also sits through this procedure.

Bharosa also has a room for video conferences where the statements are recorded. Many a times this room is used for recording statements from children who are scared to go the magistrate. After the recording the charge sheet is prepared. The center is well equipped, it has internet. The center also has a medical room where medical check ups are done. The state has recruited few doctors for Bharosa who also work in government hospitals. They are supposed to  handle the cases. This hasn’t started completely yet, so at present  the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives take the patients to the government hospitals for the examination. All are sent to either Gandhi or Osmania Hospitals. Bharosa also has a lunch room/snacks room where food is provided to the victim and the person accompanying the victim. If the child/victim doesn’t want to go home, then they are sent to the shelter homes. There are few shelter homes which are under Bharosa. There are 3 vehicles through which they are sent to the shelter homes. The building is open for 24 hours. The victims who come at night are sent to the shelter homes. And next morning their cases are registered. After the recording and all procedure is done, the case starts. Bharosa helps them in following up with their cases.

It is  also trying to get the court building for POCSO cases next to Bharosa so that the children don’t have to suffer.

SHE TEAM: The same building has another Team called the She Team. This is for the eve teasers, to punish them. There are 63 stations, and each have 1 member from she team. There are 10 teams under she team which takes care of different locality. They stand at bus stops, colleges, any crowded places. They work from morning 6 am to 11 pm. In the team there are 6 people (one female constable, one Sub Inspector, four male officers). They have spy cameras. If they see any crime they bring the eve teaser to the center (She Team building). If eve teaser is a minor, then they call the parents, give counselling and send them back (after taking the undertaking). If the eve teaser is a major then they take the finger prints, Aadhaar copy and all the details and put it online. By doing this they keep a check on how many times that particular person has committed any offence.  The nature of the crime is checked. If it is related to cyber crime then the person is sent to cyber crime cell. The complaints can be done on calls, Facebook, Twitter, whatsapp.

 

Bharosa and She Team  has made things easier for the NGO, police and victim. The victim doesn’t have to move around looking for help. Under one roof she gets all the services. There is also a team which works on outreach. There are 6 members in the team. They go to schools and colleges every day. They go speak to the Principle, then talk to the students. They talk about good and bad touch, which all cases should be reported is taught to them (especially to girls).

On principle it looks like a great place which is trying to be more holistic and response in terms of responding to problems related to women. However it still uses surveillance as a model, and are collecting data against anyone who gets caught by the police.

It does understand the concept of “One Stop Crisis Centers” in bringing all the service providers under one roof.