A Thread on Sexual Freedom
Tanisha Saxena believes, from the wise Gen-Y to the emboldened millennials and the hashtag savvy Gen-Z, India encompasses a population motivated by purpose, committed to action, and extremely passionate about making their mark.
MTV, a popular youth and music brand releases a Youth Insights Study every 2-3 years reflecting the youth’s choices and preferences. It covers insights from 25,000 + youngsters across 400+ cities between the age of 15 – 25 years.
The 2020 edition also called Mera Bharat Amazeballs Survey highlights that youngsters in the world’s oldest democracy want to go further than social media activism.
- More than 80% Indian Gen Z and millennials actively participated in citizen-led initiatives to help their neighborhoods
- Young Indian’s acceptance of queerness has progressed with 71% millennials and Gen Z extending their support for the freedom to choose sexual partners
- Within the family structure, 84% women feel their views were valued and taken seriously
“Despite being a generation high on social media, the youth today is passionate, positive, action-oriented, and committed to create a society where everyone matters.
These insights are relevant to the entire ecosystem that caters to the ever-evolving consumption cycle of youth” said Navin Shenoy, Viacom 18’s head of marketing for youth, music, and English entertainment.
In our newsletter edition for Independence Day, we decided to ask change makers their definition of freedom under the lens of sexual health and sexuality.
Photo from Npr.org
Aayat Aziz, a 12th grade student and regional head of Paper Planes Kashmir, a community of young adults working for mental health awareness, opines her views-
“Kashmir has been struggling long before India gained independence. The region has been turned into the most militarized zone in the world with enforcement of draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) -all of which have deeply impacted the population especially women and children.”
A National Family Health Survey conducted across India revealed that 60 per cent of married women in Jammu and Kashmir reported at least one reproductive health problem such as infertility, sexual dysfunction and miscarriage.
“We are barred from going out at night due to the looming uncertainty.
Wartime sexual violence is a big concern as most cases go unnoticed due to societal stigma.
Mental health issues are kept a secret as families believe they are unmarriable. Domestic violence is a common occurrence and unfortunately rarely talked about. Education too has suffered with only 20 academic days last year.
All these things are the effects of living in a conflict zone and have an unnerving impact. However, being a Kashmiri woman is a symbol of resistance and strength. Her external freedom is curtailed but one can never extinguish what’s inside her- freedom to dream big and freedom to resist.”
Swapnil, a professional screenwriter from Delhi who is nowadays creating awareness about Hindi literature through Insta lives discusses-
“Freedom of sexuality to me is accepting our bodies, our choices and most importantly, our preferences
From being the land of Kama Sutra and Khajuraho, we are now a country that does not even feel comfortable using words like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’. So much so that we are taught to call them ‘Private Parts’.
This is something that has always irked me. Every part of my body is my private part. Everything in my body belongs to me and nobody else. So why should I or anyone be ashamed of our genitalia and the issues concerning it?
Since childhood, we are taught to be uncomfortable about our bodies paving the way for self-esteem and body issues. In a country that is soon going to be the most populous in the world, we are yet to open up about sex education. It’s time for that to change.”
Photo from Bvibe.com
Nishu Dubey, a Philosophy graduate from Delhi University, woman activist and avid reader has always placed high priority in choice-
“Freedom for me is a choice-
A choice to voice my opinion in a herd of men without feeling ashamed or judged.
To be bossy or arrogant without being labelled as a man.
Freedom IS not wanting to be a man.
It is the ability to say no to sex and to also say yes.
It is tax-free pads because hey, I did not ask for periods.
It is having a choice in abortion without being labelled as an unwomanly.
It is saying “my body, my choice” without being mocked or have men make a parody.
It is to read without getting killed for it.
It is the courage to say that I have been wronged without a second thought.
It is acceptance of the truth about me.
Freedom is a dream that many before me have seen.
Freedom is learning what it truly means to be a free woman.”
Ankita Dash, a 3rd year law student, social justice and LGBTQ+ activist details-
In present day India, Sex and sexuality are taboo concepts-mainly because of the colonizers’ “good Christian mentality” and the laws that they made accordingly. Sex is either thought of as a sacred act- only to occur after marriage or it is simply demonized. Further, even though it has been almost two years since the Draconian Section 377 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) was scrapped, there’s still a lot of queer phobia that exists in our country.
As an outspoken bisexual woman, freedom for me is the ability to not be looked at under the archaic lenses of old homophobic laws, to love who I want to, and to exist outside the boundaries of what the world has stereotyped me and my sexuality as.
Indraja Devpriyam, active on social media for promoting sex education explains-
Freedom to me means being liberated from oppressive structures. Whether that is patriarchy, heteronormativity, casteism, or crony capitalism. Freedom means mobility, freedom from fear, the opportunity to build a life on your own terms and live authentically. And I don’t just mean outward expression but the possibility of a dignified existence where everyone can be truly empowered politically and economically, to free themselves from discrimination.
Photo from Bvibe.com
Manvendra Singh Gohil, the first openly gay prince in the world, shares his experience-
“Before coming out openly as gay I felt imprisoned and forced to be closeted, to live a life of falsehood. Worst of all, be a hypocrite. After I came out, there was complete freedom.
I could be true to myself and others without having to hide anything. My life became an open book. It was like removing a huge burden in the same manner as the yolk is withdrawn from the oxen’s neck and it is set free.
Freedom to me means the right to be who you are and to do what you want to do without being discriminated against or judged. It means the right to love someone you love and be loved. It means to be treated equally like all human beings and to enjoy all human rights equally”.
Lokesh Pawar, a content creator discusses his views–
Freedom to me means not being held back from living your truth. Freedom to me means being able to take a step and not having to think of what people say. Unfortunately, we’re still fighting for freedom in our own personal capacities and it’s heartbreaking to see how far we still have to go. However, the one thing that pushes us to do what we do is what our forefathers did. For we strive and survive today only because of their struggle. Hence, the fight we fight today and the steps we take will lead to the generations to come into a better living. The primary difference in back then and now is the voice. Today’s voice for freedom transcends borders, crosses nationalities and breaks through religions, hence, the effect is multifold. Ease of access to information has made the fight possible and has led us to be even stronger. As a passionate activist, I’m working towards helping other people begin their journey towards freedom by sharing my story and my emotion.
Esha Bahal, a social media activist and 2nd year law student converses–
“While interning at a campaign with Haiyya, that aimed to provide stigma-free healthcare to women seeking sexual health medical services, I realised how unaware women are of their own rights and how ill equipped we are when it comes to proper sex education.
In India, Brahmanical patriarchy is a powerful force that governs the sexual health rights of women. Underprivileged women are at a further disadvantage because sexual health rights especially for unmarried women is seen as taboo. A woman can only exercise sexual agency within the bounds laid by society, which is very problematic.
Her sexual health is intricately tied to how privileged she is because it hints at how much agency she can exercise, which is further linked to how confident she feels.
A confident woman can unapologetically assert that she needs to be treated with more respect, that she wants to be pleasured too and that she knows what is best for her sexual health because she has access to stigma free healthcare and that’s the freedom we need.
Freedom to me also lies in the collective alleviation of disadvantaged people. Society as a whole cannot progress if marginalized communities still face violence at the hands of systemic oppression.”
Photo from Bvibe.com
Shivam Puri, an aspiring Clinical Psychologist and LGBTQIA+ community member feels-
“The idea of freedom for me means the ability to express oneself freely without any restraint. It can be in the form of an expression, an art form, or ideas.
The real question is do we have that freedom? And the answer is a big fat NO!
We have a democracy that theoretically gives us the right to choose but due to the limited availability of options, every election we choose our own new shackles.
If freedom means to select your prison or poison, we have that but if it is to express oneself freely, we are far from it.
My notion is based on the fact that LGBT individuals have barely any representation in mainstream Indian politics due to which we lack basic rights like the ability to marry one’s partner, adopt a baby together or ever co-own a property.
India celebrates its 74th Independence Day this year in 2020 but we are still not truly independent. It was Britishers back then and now it is our own country men in the facade of politicians.”
Though we still have a long way to go to truly attain sexual freedom, hearing such opinions from the youth of our country and the ones who can enforce real change is surely a step in the right direction.