In Indian Medical Termination of Pregnancy is legal under certain conditions. It is important for us understand the procedure for abortion.
For abortion or also known as Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP), the woman needs to fill a consent form called ‘Form C’. Only the consent of the women is required for performing the medical termination.
The woman is provided with a medicine kit containing mifepristone and misoprostol. These medicines are best helpful in first 12 weeks (1st Trimester of abortion).
The doctor properly explains how to utilise these medicines as it is important to take these medicines in a proper way and under the doctor’s guidance
Day 1:One 200 mg tablet of Mifepristone is taken
Day 3 (between 24 to 48 hours):Misoprostol pills of 200 mcg each (total of 800 mcg) are given orally or vaginally.
Day 14 – 15:Person returns for a post-treatment examination to affirm that a complete end of pregnancy has happened.
The doctor would recommend to come back for an ultrasound check up after 15 days. Then get an ultrasound (abdomen) done because it is important to find out if the abortion is completed and women is safe.
These medicines don’t have any side effects but should be always taken under the doctor’s guidance. It is always better to see if the clinic has displayed the certificate for medical termination practice. One needs to be careful from quacks or unregistered doctors.
Hidden Pockets discussing Privacy with regard to sexual health at Digital Citizen Summit
We were present at Digital Citizen Summit organised by Digital Empowerment Foundation on 1st and 2nd November, 2018.
It was a great experience to discuss the role of privacy in our work on sexual and reproductive health and how do we work with other open source communities like Free Software Movement of Karnataka to build this further.
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.
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.
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 spillthe 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 itbut 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 .
“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 andinterpretation 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. Iwas 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 Icomfortable 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.
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.
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.
I took a bus from BOC point and headed to main town. From there, I got out of the bus and started walking as the traffic jam was massive. It wasn’t much of a challenge finding the clinic as I was initially given the address from which I clearly remember the name of the colony it stood in- Daklane. And as I reached the colony, the first person I met, I asked where Reproductive Health and Family Planning clinic is and he directed me perfectly and I didn’t need to ask anyone again on my way.
The moment I reached the clinic, I stretched my neck as it stood at a peak, and realized just how normal the clinic was and how though I’ve been to the colony many times I never really saw this yellow structure with huge billboards on Reproductive Health and Family Planning.
As I climbed up the stairs and entered, I was greeted by the head, who then took me to his office and after a brief conversation, introduced me to his team who will tell me about the clinic and answer my queries. It didn’t feel like I was in an alien place and though it was my first time I felt familiar with it.
The team took me through the process of the clinic right;
Immunization (for children), Counselling,
OPD and so on.
I was told they get about 250 patients coming in every month from all age groups. The number however used to be higher but because of the change in the consulting doctor who was liked by many and with whom many found comfort, had to take leave for further studies. He had a great rapport with the patients and was always the preferred one. Two doctors are currently in chair, one a male and the other a female. They take turns and are available through Monday to Friday. They have also through time have gained trust of patients and the number of visiting patients are increasing.
Where though most treatments are FREE, for the few where fees are imposed is also not considered mandatory and if a patient is unable to pay, he or she is relieved from having to pay at all. The fee for MVA which is for safe abortion is two thousand rupees, covering all expenses like meds, procedure, full doses required. Again, even if the patient is unable to pay they will still treat her without payment.
They provide free contraceptives, and also conduct other long term procedures like coppertine, sterilization (both female and male).
The clinic not only receives patient from Kohima but all over Nagaland. Doctors from other districts and villages refer them to the clinic. Even government hospitals like Naga Hospital, Kohima refers patients to the clinic. Apart from these, they also provide Hepatitis B and C services. The clinic also have a good amount of HIV and IDU patients. Apart from such in house treatments, they also cater to an adolescents program called Adolescents Education Program, where they visit government schools and less privileged private schools, and hold comprehensive sexuality program. They conduct events and programs in order to share information on the same and create awareness. They also hold monthly musical program called Top Acts on every 4th Saturday in order to create a positive space for the same. The day I visited the clinic, an abortion was underway. It was the first time in my life that I stood next to a room where an abortion was underway. And rather than feeling anything else, I only worried if the patient is doing okay. And hoped she’d be fit both physically and mentally soon.
As I took my leave and was on my way out a young girl working there offered me tea, and as I came out of the clinic, it was just a normal day again. The clinic has two exits and entrances making it easier for patients to take whichever is best directed to their house or bus/taxi station. Just a couple of minutes of walk away is the bus stop and taxi station.
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.
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:-
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
SAATHI – Solidarity and Action Against HIV Infection in India
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.
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.
In the Hidden Pockets website they describe themselves as an organisation that studies, “The city (which) is divided into spaces and zones and one is always taught to enjoy a city in certain ways. We try to visualize a city and map it on the basis of various facets. We try to see cities in a new light via audio podcasts,digital maps, photo essays and a blog. In our pilot project, we aim to curate hidden pockets of India.”
I had the pleasure of speaking to Jasmine George from the Hidden Pockets team.
Avantika Tewari: What was the impulse behind remapping the city-scape and cataloging the sights and insights of the lived experience of the city in a digital archive?
Jasmine George: In reaction to the ‘Nirbhaya’ incident, I was confused by the narratives that were emerging around us. Being a lawyer myself, I was confounded at how safety was being accorded with the demands of having more surveillance, more regulation and restrictions on women. There were undercurrent of how upper class women needed to be protected from the lower class man, and to me this was discomforting. This is where I identified the need to reclaim the city, to re-configure and redefine it. Instead of focusing on how ‘unsafe’ the city is and thereby, marking out ‘danger’ zone, we at Hidden Pocketsare looking for pleasure pockets.
AT: How far have you come since its inception and what are the various things that you wish to undertake as part of Hidden Pockets? Based on the collection of experience, do you at some point, wish to make recommendations at the level of urban planning?
JG: It’s been a year and a half since we started out and now our presence can be felt in 7 cities of India- Delhi, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Jaipur. So far we have been mapping reproductive health services, transportation services, identifying pleasure pockets. We also are getting to know more about the cities as we map them, so often times when we meet people while attempting to identify pleasure pockets, we realise that pleasure is not homogenous, or necessarily sexual pleasure only. Therefore, our imagination of pleasure too gets altered when for one person pleasure may be reading a book in solitude but for another it maybe taking a stroll in the park under the night sky.
We would love to help at the level of public policy interventions someday, if it so happens. It is interesting to see that through our journey we have been able to talk about sexuality in relation to technology and the city. Especially now when there is a talk of building ‘smart cities,’ how would it impact the scope of accessing the city? There is an expression of desire and pleasure, which often gets missed out while planning a city. By making a false binary between ‘security’ and pleasure, our cities have failed to account many experiences, which could be a useful tool to design a city, a feminist city.
AT: In a deeply gendered city, how do you map the city based on such a wide range of experiences?
JG: This is no model city that I have in mind, as a teleological end. Every city has its own ups and downs, for example, Jaipur has great public health movement and is far more well planned as compared to Delhi. Even though one would imagine Delhi to have a superior health system.
It is important, thus, to learn about how cities work- how they bring in their own socio history in altering the space, how the state governments play a role. To give you an example, in the southern part of the country where literacy rates are higher than the northern parts but equally so, taboos have co-existed. So even when the health services are good, there remains of a problem of accessing them. How does one make the city more accessible? Which is why there is no one model of a city that it should aspire to become like, rather, we should focus on better parameters as markers to identify a good city.
AT: The city is marked by the exclusions and invisibility of many people, the scope of access is foreclosed. What the parameters you suggest to be included as a yardstick, especially since the cities are getting ‘smarter’ but perhaps not any less gendered?
JG: Again, they vary, contextually and temporally. Are more young women seen as accessing the cities? Are the health service efficient, affordable, accessible?Are there pleasure pockets? The parameters keep increasing to be more inclusive. When I speak of inclusivity, I don’t just mean it at the level of theory, I want it to be practiced and doable. Which is why for me to re-configure the city as more inclusive will come through by working on our pilot project.
So mostly our ideas of a city are derived from the World Bank Guidelines, or aspirational idea of city is based on the image of a Shanghai or a London or a New York. We may continue to take inspiration and take the best from the cities, but I don’t think one can model any city as the ‘best.’ There are multiple of tier 1 and tier 2 cities in India that are supposed to a city but are not, and there are many small townships which seem like a city but are not. The (idea of a) city, thus is itself undergoing a lot of change. There has been an attempt to further redefine the idea of a city with the introduction of the smart city. With its emphasis on technology, it must still retain some amount of a human centric approach in arriving at that smart city.
Today what we see is that technological development happens and humans are supposed to just adjust themselves around the change, humans aren’t taken into consideration while the technology is being set up. Take for example, surveillance, because of which control of the body is so normalised. We have been reduced to being just a receiver. In such an instance, the marginal groups are the most left out. It is thus a challenge before us to bring out the lived experiences of people when in a smart city, the idea of productivity supersedes all else.
We have to be mindful that even in a Dublin or Denmark would emphasise on cycling and that is an attempt to encapsulate the recreational, pleasure part of the city. How do we propose to do that? By reimagining the city and its people, in every capacity- by working with people across the board- the planner, techie, activist- everyone needs to alter their imagination of a city to make it more inclusive. Especially when there is no common language for a feminist discourse to happen, thats where we need to work harder to sustain a conversation, which may further help in making a discursive change later.
AT: Coming to your pilot project, ‘Pleasure Pockets,’ where you seek to reinvent the image of the country which is oft only imagined as ‘unsafe for women.’ How do you propose the change, given that the politics of visibility determines whose appearance ‘counts’ as a ‘claim’ on the city and whose doesn’t. How do you propose we make the city more ‘inclusive’ of the narratives of ‘others,’ whose appearance also renders them invisible? Eg migrants, Transpeople, homeless.
JG: Pleasure pockets came as a response to the division that was conjured up between the middle class women versus lower class man, this narrative should not be picked up as it in a sense demands the ‘protection’ of upper-middle class women from the ‘lower class’ men. As a response to the Nirbhaya rape case, we were going back to people and asking them what for them should be the idea of city? How do they wish to be able to access it? People had different understanding of pleasure too, but to think of pleasure vis-a-vis a city was new to them, because often times the notion of pleasure gets restricted in the private domain and doesn’t leak into the public sphere.
When we started questioning people, we realised that there was a lack of curiosity to find out places for pleasure in our cities. nobody really cared to find out where do women like to go. Necessarily, every women gave different answers and here’s where the liberals have gotten it all wrong, when they try to give universal terms and thereby, universalise experiences. Women is a heterogenous group, they inhabit different ideas of pleasure. For some it may be walking, reading, for others it may be going on a tinder date, on a spectrum of different experiences.
Where we step in is, if a woman has a bad experience, say on a tinder date, which she consented to go for. How would she approach the police to file a complaint, while dismissing her worries of victim blaming? With what agency and language can she counter that? This is why the discourse on pleasure is important.
We cannot see security and pleasure as binaries. There are layers to one’s experiences, a pleasurable situation can become unpleasant any time. Discomfort and pleasure are not experienced the same way by all women. I recall a scene from the movie, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, where Kangana Ranaut was walking in the middle of the night with a whiskey glass in her hand. I had never seen a woman with a glass of whiskey, at night, ever! Nobody is trivialising safety here, but having pleasure pockets is important even to enhance the accessibility to safety. It is more important, than ‘providing security,’ ensuring safety by feeling a sense of ease to be out at that time of the hour and not worry.
In another instance, when I spoke my differently abled activist friend, she told me that nobody ever talks to her about pleasure, that they only want to talk about her ‘rights’ as a differently abled person. That’s when I realise that it is a process in learning, we haven’t had much discussion on pleasure in public spaces, on roads, in parks.
AT: Is it purely at the level of symbolism that you intend to make the shift in the imagination of cities? Or do you organize meets, events and walks to reclaim public spaces in order to re-configure them? If yes, what are the various forms of coming together that you rely on?
JG: Symbolism is very important, we need something to hold onto. Movements where people are marking their presence in the city, like what Pijra Tod and Why Loiter are doing is important because even though movements may die, but the demonstration remains important. One way to make the transition from symbolism to the concrete, I see institutionalisation as important, although it may not be the only way to mark this shift. In my experience, to run an organisation and to ensure it is more inclusive is a deeply challenging task. To have people who are more language affirmative, with negotiations happening all around you with power, privilege and gender, you must ensure that the allocation of economics and work is fairly done.
So in a way the transition is the easy part, the implementation is more important and challenging. You can institutionalise and organise but how do you put to practice what you preach?
I find symbolism and idealism incredibly important because when we are saying that nights can be/ or need to be safe, women have to go out. We need to go through the fear to overcome it. I’m from Kerela, where women of my village are not afraid of the night but as a city dweller, for me street lights are important, otherwise I worry. The entire discourse then is not a demand for the ‘right’ of women to ‘go out’ rather to normalise for people to be out at night if they so wish it.
In Ahmedabad, I saw that families would be out late at night, even though there isn’t liquor license, people have found their pleasure in holding picnics by the streets, having food, etc. Hence, it too dents the idea of finding pleasure only in ‘nightlife’ as parties and alcohol which has so far informed the public discourse around going out at night.
There are parts of cities which are never asleep and I have seen a perverse obsession of trying to map particularly brothels as sights of pleasures. It is rather irresponsible to locate these places are the ‘only’ pleasure pockets as they are economic places for certain women, and by mapping this information who are we going to put it out for? As we can see some women are already reclaiming the night and the streets! In fact, lets not even talk about sex workers, I can recall another instance where outside Nehru Place, women hawkers, has to walk on foot to cover a 2 kms distance in order to catch a bus after 10pm, to get on the bus that leaves by 10.15 pm. Irrespective of how little the buffer time may be, they prefer walking, because they don’t have an option but to save up the money. It is then not as a right that they reclaim the night or the public space but for a livelihood.
We have organise walks in Mehrauli, where we observed that most women were uncomfortable. But it is here where it is important to work with that discomfort rather than remaining indifferent. We make them walk through their discomforts to undo fear and prejudice. In time hopefully, this will organically happen, and the city then will too get reconfigured when it’s visited by more women. This is why we feel that more and more women in large groups should mark their physical presence as to rupture a discourse around security. We take the experiences of women into account while theorising the notion of pleasure, so it’ll be interesting to expand our understanding of fun beyond dance and parties and rather displace it to see how you can connect the idea of pleasure with the housewife, instead?
AT: Your work primarily focuses on mapping sexual health and reproductive services in the city. You have documented data, queries with regard to the same, any reason why chose to specifically engage with this?
JG: Hidden Pockets focus area is to identify the things hidden yet part of the city, which is why we give priority to sexual and reproductive services. These are services that may be out there but are inaccessible, for whatever reasons to women. We look at the city from the lens of sexuality. We wish for women to acknowledge their right to participate in the cities by making use of the services that are available for them, to make them feel inspired to take regular care of the self, to cater to their own desires, pleasures, and to have fun. Often times, this doesn’t come naturally to women. Even when speaking about health, there is a gradation. Women tend to access medical services after marriage, that is when reproductive health enters the life of most women. It could be because of lack of services, taboo, socio-cultural belief that there is a refusal to visit a doctor in a particular area.
These are real issues, when public health services are made available and yet not being accessed. What is the reason for a rape survivor to not want to file an FIR? How does she know where to seek counselling, medication? The relationship with public systems is not just discursive, it plays out in reality. How can we make a difference in bridging this gap? By going and working on people’s politics, encouraging them to access services and this cannot come through ‘sensitisation.’
We restrict our work only to mapping, we are not training the service providers like the police personnel, or medical in charge as I don’t think that a workshop or training can undo people’s subjectivity. Things need to be worked out with constant engagement and not through patronising workshops where are blind to say, the police’s own institutional issues. As in the case of police who becomes the interpreter of law when reporting incidents of violence against women, they know it legally, but articulating the experience is not part of the training. But this cannot happen overnight. We thus have to adopt our systems, work with the existing systems, help the make them be more accountable. We need to incorporate in a systematic way changes that are gender sensitive to become part of their normal training, instead of having sporadic workshops.
AT: You also have interesting doodles and podcasts, hence widening the scope of narration from textual to audio-visual. How far has that mode of sharing information worked for you? How well have people responded to these forms?
JG: To be honest, I don’t understand the obsession with texts. Half the people of the country can’t read English or Hindi. How do we propose to have any tangible, change when people can’t access our information? To be carriers of knowledge, we use podcasts, art, doodles, what are small, not text heavy and can speak to a wider set of people. Our podcasts are not directed towards just the urban elite folk, rather by holding story telling sessions, we have seen that it works well even in a rural setting, where people have exchanged files via whatsapp and shared it further. Story telling sessions work really well, people love it! Talking about different experiences and digitally archiving alternative knowledge systems in a way that they are accessed by people is what we endeavour to do.
I also find that more than textual work, audio-visuals forces you to listen, makes you more connected to the author and is a lot more personalised than reading. It also becomes a community activity when the information is further exchanged via phone.
Our Doodle Pockets series too attempts to achieve the same purpose. We work on humor, talk about sexuality, point at how there are no spaces for fun and laughter. We leave a lot to our artists to imagine or merely reflect what and how they see reality. Through the use of imagination we are able to blur boundaries between idealisation and abstraction of reality. Since, these doodles are experiential narratives taking shape in creative art, there is less pressure to be ‘rational’ or ‘politically cohesive.’ We are able to thus retain our irrational behaviour, overcoming the pressure to be productive but while also keeping the city alive in our thoughts. We also realised that this exercise was liberating even for the artists as they were able to draw the world around them as they see it- physically or as an imprint on the imagination.