#OpenPockets : Conversations with young people on sexual well being

In 2018 , Hidden Pockets is conducting events in Bangalore with service providers with an aim to bring an audience of young people to the service providers and have open conversations around issue of health and young people. We call it the #OpenPockets.

A place where we come and talk about our sexual well-being and at the same time get a chance to talk about some of the myths and fears we have around sexual health.

a purse with things spilling over.

It is a great chance to meet counsellors and doctor and have some conversations with them to demystify some of the doubts we have around sexual well-being.

Coffee with Kamala Das: Right to pleasure for Indian women?

Soulful conversation 

One of my friend recommended me to be a part of a discussion which was about the exploring of sexuality, by reading of Kamala Das’s poem ‘An introduction’. She told me that it was to be held in Atta Gallata, Koramangala. I really didn’t know if I should go or not. I mean I was too confused but later on I made up my mind to go and be part of the discussion.

In case you are wondering, why did I go there or what made me go there . To be honest I didn’t go there because I am a feminist. I went there for poetry. I mean poetry is said to be something that moves our souls beyond this world and helps us to connect overselves with the cosmos. I am a huge fan of poetry. I love reading and writing poetry. I often sit in my balcony, sipping coffee and I write or rather I should say I spill  the ink. Poetry, for me its magic. It’s a living, breathing presence in my life. People often tell me that I write well. To be precise I write a lot of Urdu poetry. It carries huge amount of value . It’s deep, sheer and perfect. And rightly so.   But I panic a lot . I have social an anxiety so I don’t have the nerves to face the stage or be a part of any discussion.

 

When I came to know about the fact that Hidden pockets is organising a program about poetry, and its about Kamala Das. I was really happy to hear about it  but as soon as I came to know that it is not just a session but a discussion and each one of us have to speak and talk, I was really anxious. I mean I wanted to go but then the fear of facing the audience made me worried. 

Somehow I made my mind and went there. To be frank enough to say, I was little shivering as I sat under the spotlight. I didn’t know what to do though I was familiar with the poem ‘An introduction’. I mean it’s one of my favourite poems. After a while people came and one by one all the empty chairs were filled. People who were unknown to me, totally strangers. I became nervous, yet again. I told the organizers beforehand that ‘i am going to talk less ‘ and they were approachable enough . 

 

Kamala Das : An Introduction 

“Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit..”

 

So here it started. We all introduced ourselves. Some of them sang, which was an ice breaker for the discussion. Everyone had that broad smile on their faces. And once we started of with the poem, I was the one who started to put give opinions and  interpretation on the opening stanza or lines. I was actually moved by the lines she has mentioned in her poem. It’s so good. Shamelessly she is talking about sexuality and things which are a taboo in our society. My opinion was that why not? Why not to be fearless enough to love someone we want to. Why not to have sex or feel the pleasure even before marriage. Why not to wear crop tops and walk in the deserted or even the crowded streets. Why?

  One by one everyone read the different stanzas of the same poem. Many different interpretations came, there was no right and wrong. Everyone was putting their words and pouring out their thoughts without any fear. 

I was surprised, not only I was speaking but I was fully indulged in the discussion. I mean i spoke a lot. Gradually my fear became my strength. I no longer was a weak or other sex but felt equal to other gender too or maybe same gender but with lot of energy and enthusiasm. I  was full of zest and full of energy too The session turned out to be a “Soulful Conversation” for me.

Kamala Das and her poetry was a living breathing presence for me at that time . We all spoke about exposing our sexualities, we discussed orgasm, what is it to be a woman and what not. It was so great to be part of such discussion. I don’t think I have ever had such good time with people whom I don’t even know. And I’m glad that they didn’t judge me were listening to what I was saying . I feel that talking about anything or everything in front of unknown crowd or strangers is better. I mean I don’t know about others much, but I  comfortable enough to open up before strangers other than the people I know.

Some people who were familiar with Malayalam language, read out the original text by Kamala Das. As the discussion ended. We all just like a new family, spoke to each other. One on one . Shook hands, laughed, smiled. To keep up with the funky trend we also took a selfie. 

I’m sure I ain’t going to forget this discussion ever in my life. I am looking forward for such discussions more and more . 

Hidden pockets gave me a gift ‘ To Face My Fear’ and I will always cherish this gift ! Thanks Jasmine, Aisha, Sekulu and Aren.

-Nashafa Firdous Mir : I am a very moody and choosy kind of person. I am a weirdo and hardly I am comfortable enough to indulge into a discussion but this discussion was so good that I didn’t even feel uncomfortable for once.

 

Photo and video courtesy : Kiran Sopanam and Shikhil.

Sexuality Education Workshop in Kannada – Mysore

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.

Pleasure Pockets around Agara Lake of Bangalore

As part of 2018 Women’s Day special, we at Hidden Pockets Collective, decided to walk around recently inaugurated Agara Lake. We were happy to realise that the inauguration coincided  with our pleasure pockets walk 🙂

 

 

We were intrigued to realise that there was this beautiful lake right in the centre of the bustling Hosur Sarjapur Road (HSR Layout) and people were yet to discover the joys of this public place.

 

 

Armed with umbrellas, phones and our spirit we went for a pleasure pockets walk, looking for spots.

 

 

There were plenty of women who had joined us, who were already there ready with running shoes.

 

 

It was simply a beautiful view to look at the sunset next to this lake in the city.

 

 

It was beautiful to see this poster of a woman with message on planting of trees.


Image Credit : Sekulu Nyekha

Podcasts – the future of story telling

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.

Walking the New Years Eve on MG Road, Bangalore

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

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

Hidden Pockets Collective participated at 9th Asia Pacific Conference on  Reproductive and  Sexual Health Rights in Vietnam in 2017.

The Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights  is a biennial gathering of civil society, young people, academia, government, media, private sector, and development partners from the region concerned about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The first APCRSHR was organized in 2001 in Manila and the succeeding seven conferences were hosted by countries across Asia as Thailand (2003), Malaysia (2005), India (2007), China (2009), Indonesia (2011), Philippines (2014), and Myanmar (2016). It was the first time Viet Nam hosted this conference in the context of Viet Nam had big change in laws and policies related to SRHR.We were there to present our work with young people around abortion and comprehensive sexuality education.

It was super exciting to be there with some amazing other organisations from India like the YP Foundation and CREA.

 

 

 

 

 

As part of ASAP Youth Champions ,  Aisha George from Hidden Pockets collective was there to meet young people from Asia Pacific working on issue of abortion.

Jasmine George, as part of Women Deliver fellowship was there to share stories around usage of audio podcasts to deliver comprehensive sexuality education in schools in India.

 

 

 

 

FC2 also had a booth in the conference where they were showcasing their products and even helped us in understanding their female condoms. Remember, we have reviewed their products in the past and were only happy to meet them in person and also get a chance to see a demonstration of the Female Condoms.

 

Overall, it was a great experience to meet young advocates working on sexual and reproductive health and demanding changes from their various governments. It was also fun learning about so many great initiatives being conducted in countries like Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan , Mangolia and many other countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does anyone ask for young people’s consent?

 

Hidden Pockets Collective recently conducted a workshop on consent for young people with Project Khel in Uttar Pradesh. It was conducted for children above the age of 10 years old to 17 years in different schools.

We asked the young people if they had ever talked about issue of consent with their friends, family and communities. There were lot of questions about right to say yes, right to no, and questions about how to convince a person.

They often had questions about who had a right to give consent, not everyone felt they had a right. Also for most of them, they felt like parents decided things for them.

Even though nobody explicitly mentioned about child marriages, young people did acknowledge the fact that a lot of young girls had to drop out of schools because of marriages.

 

Are young people there in the National Health Policy 2017?

Hidden Pockets Collective took part in Public Consultation held by Prayas and Human Right Law Network in Bhopal in 2017. This year the theme was around Legal interventions in Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Are young people there in the National Health Policy 2017? In order to answer this question, it is important to understand the definition of young people. According to the National Youth Policy 2014, young people in India, which is people in the age group of 15-29 years of age, comprise 27.5% of the population. At present, about 34% of India’s Gross National Income (GNI) is contributed by the youth, aged 15-29 years. Government of India spends about Rs.55,000 crores on non-targeted schemes including health designed for various demographic segments of which youth are also beneficiaries.

Considering the youth contribution to the national population and Gross National Income, it becomes pertinent to understand the National Health Policy from the perspective of young people.

Areas where young people have been mentioned in the National Health Policy

It is essential to understand that though the National Youth Policy acknowledges that 15-29 years of age is the age group of the youth, the National Health Policy nowhere specifically addresses the need of this particular age group although it mentions and includes adolescents with respect to several aspects. However, taking into consideration the different aspects that pertain to the youth, following may be seen as the areas that address the needs of the youth:

Objectives under Progressively achieve universal health coverage:

“Assuring availability of free, comprehensive primary health care services, for all aspects of reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health and for the most prevalent communicable, non-communicable and occupational diseases in the population.”

Under Policy Thrust – Preventive and promotive health:

“an expansion of scope of interventions to include early detection and response to early childhood development delays and disability, adolescent and sexual health education, behavior change with respect to tobacco and alcohol use, screening, counseling for primary prevention and secondary prevention from common chronic illness –both communicable and non-communicable diseases.”

National Health programmes:

The policy gives special emphasis to the health challenges of adolescents and long term potential of investing in their health care.

“The scope of Reproductive and Sexual Health should be expanded to address issues like inadequate calorie intake, nutrition status and psychological problems interalia linked to misuse of technology, etc.”

However, this seems to only include youth between the age of 15-18 or 19.

In order to better understand the presence of youth in the National Health Policy, it becomes important to understand the policy in the light of the National Youth Policy, which was passed earlier in 2014.

Alignment between National Health Policy and National Youth Policy

Maternal health

National Health Policy 2017 and the National Youth Policy 2014, both address maternity health and the need to address the different aspects related to it for the mother and the newborn child.  It is progressive that the government acknowledges the need for expansion of reproductive and sexual health for adolescents and the need to address social determinants for maternal health. However, how it intends to implement these measures has to be seen especially with respect to National Health Policy.

Education on nutrition

Both the policy frameworks have acknowledged the need to educate the youth about the need for the education among Youth about nutrition and calorie intake

Sex education

The National Youth Policy notes the need to create “awareness about family planning, birth control, STDs, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, especially in rural areas and (c) addressing issues concerning emotional and mental health (e.g. risk of depression and potential suicide attempts), esp. in case of adolescent youth.”

Addressing high risk groups for sexually transmitted diseases

“Enhanced capacity for detection and treatment of communicable diseases must be developed, especially for pregnant mothers and other high-risk groups.” – National Youth Policy 2014

While there are alignments with respect to several policies, there are several gaps between the policies and even otherwise. These gaps may have a far-reaching effect on the sexual and reproductive health of the youth.

Gaps between both policies and otherwise

Addressing sex ratio

Along with maternal health, the National Youth Policy also addresses the need to bring down female feticide to improve child sex ratio

“There is a need to pay special attention to health issues concerning women youth. This would entail greater pre-natal and post-natal care for women in vulnerable age group of 14-18 years, need to bring down maternal and infant mortality rates, campaign against female feticide to improve child sex ratio, etc.”

Marginalized and disadvantaged youth

The National Youth Policy 2014 acknowledges the need to support “a few segments of the youth population require special attention. These include economically backward youth, women, youth with disabilities, youth living in conflict affected regions including left wing extremism, and youth at risk due to substance abuse, human trafficking or hazardous working conditions.”

This is not the case with the National Health Policy. Except women as a group, the intersectionality of young people with other groups of people has not been dealt with in detail in the National Health Policy 2017. There seems to be a gap in understanding the impact of an individual being subject to multiple challenges due to the intersectionality.

For example: A person may be disabled, transgender and HIV positive

Disability

  •      Equity: Reducing inequity would mean affirmative action to reach the poorest. It would mean minimizing disparity on account of gender, poverty, caste, disability, other forms of social exclusion and geographical barriers. It would imply greater investments and financial protection for the poor who suffer the largest burden of disease.
  •      Health Status and Programme Impact: Establish regular tracking of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) Index as a measure of burden of disease and its trends by major categories by 2022.
  •      “Research on social determinants of health along with neglected health issues such as disability and transgender health will be promoted.”

Transgender violence:

  •      Unfortunately, both policies do not focus on the needs of sexual minorities going beyond the ambit of HIV/AIDS with focused interventions on the high risk communities like MSM (Men who have Sex with Men), Transgender, FSW (Female Sex workers), etc. and prioritized geographies for control of HIV/AIDS. It is worth noting though that the National Youth Policy was passed in January 2014 much before the NALSA judgment of 2014 that recognised transgenders as the third gender in the country.
  •      Gender violence also affects the transgender community, going beyond just women. However, the policy limits the scope to women.

Gender based violence:

  •      The section on Gender based violence notes that public hospitals need to be made women-friendly and the staff need orientation to gender sensitivity issues. It also states that healthcare to survivors and victims of gender based violence needs to be provided free and with dignity in the public and private sector.
  •      Gender violence also affects the transgender community, going beyond just women. However, the policy limits the scope to women.
  •      Even with respect to women, the policy does not qualify or define gender violence or gender sensitivity issues.

Universal Health Coverage and Right to Health

The 12th Plan seeks to extend the outreach of public health services for moving towards the goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through National Health Mission. – National Youth Policy 2014

National Health Policy 2017 has reiterated the same. It advocates an “incremental assurance based approach”. The policy tries to understand Right to Health from two perspectives.

The policy mentions that the medical tribunal will also be responsible for resolution of disputes related healthcare and also the need for protection of patients including right to information, access to medical records, confidentiality, privacy, among others. Information related to health is of sensitive nature especially sexual and reproductive health. This could include details about HIV and AIDS patients, abortion data (both married and unmarried women), individuals affected by other STDs, among others. What happens if there is a data leak? The government recently admitted to Aadhaar data leak.  Several state governments including Madhya Pradesh have mandated linking Aadhaar to HIV treatment. News reports note a drop in registration at ART centres since the announcement of this integration.

Right to privacy was recently declared as a fundamental right. However, there is no law protecting the privacy of Indians. It is worth noting that the verdict on mandating Aadhaar is expected in November 2017.

The consultation was an excellent initiative to bring people working in the public health sector under one umbrella and discuss issues affecting various different communities. We shared our concerns regarding young people and their role in the public health sector.

 

Note : Brindaalakshmi had attended and presented on behalf of Hidden Pockets Collective.