International columnist, political analyst and senior journalist Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui’s articles are published across Asia, Africa and Europe. He writes for The Moroccan Times, The Tunis Times, India Tomorrow, Kohram News, The Etemaad Urdu Daily and for news papers published from Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. You can follow him on Twitter at: @journopolana[/symple_box]
Musqat, Oman—The #PadsAgainstSexism campaign started by 19- year old Elona Kastrati in her hometown Karlshruhe in Germany has snowballed into a major controversy with female students and feminists in different countries using the simple sanitary pad used during menstruation as a weapon of sorts to convey their strong resentment against sexual violence against women and the lack of gender equality. ‘‘I thought about how society gets offended by a normal pad. I thought about it so much, the idea came to me to write quotes on them,’’ quipped Elona. Now, it is the turn of the Indian universities to see how the idea of witing quotes on a soft sanitary pad can be used to convey hard feelings to people who matter.
Last week, a group of students from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, the capital of India took inspiration from the German student Elona to give messages of their own to the rapists and potential rapists. The reputed university was splashed with sanitary pad messages much to the discomfort of the conservative females and males alike. The university authorities ordered removal of the pads from the campus. The pad campaigners from the Jamia Millia Islamia came out into the open and had to say the following:
‘‘We would like to highlight the fact that our campaign is meant to be a peaceful one to spread awareness against sexism. We did not mean to intentionally offend anyone, only to create conversation and debate within our college campus related to rape culture and stigma attached to menstruation. We have taken our campaign off-campus and on to the streets of Delhi and spread awareness. We did not recreate this initiative in Delhi for attention, only for awareness and as a way to push forward the conversation and debate of gender equality and anti rape culture in India. The campaign was started by 4 students who live in a society where women cannot always walk down the road after 8 pm without concern for their safety.
“We are among the many who are disgusted and horrified by the December 16th (2012) rape of Jyoti Singh and all the rapes that have continued to occur after it. Students who watched their country ban a (BBC) documentary about the gang rape named ‘India’s Daughter’, which showed how some in our society think. We are students who strongly believe our society needs to stop being passive about rape culture and accept gender equality. Label it feminism or call it being a sensitive human being, we understand the need for equality and safety for women as well as an end to violence against women and we hope to fight for equality with the support of all of you. We request all the speculators to introspect about their reactions towards the use of sanitary pads and whom they believed responsible.’’
The Delhi University students followed their counterparts from Jamia Millia and enacted the same in their campus. It raged like a wild fire. The pad concept found acceptance in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal also, where the students took to the ‘pad protest’ in Jadavpur University. The university authorties have appointed a 3-member panel to look into the entire episode. Jadavpur University may not be the last one to witness the mushrooming of the sanitary pad messages of protest. The phenomenon may be repeated in many other colleges and universities in the days to come. The scientists of the world have a new task at hand. The task of finding an alternative to the tried and tested sanitary pad will make the scientists grow bald. Sanitary napkins may disappear from the shelves of the shopping malls across the world, if the femme fatale decides to make it a global campaign. On a more serious note, though the form of protest may not be very pleasant but the messages should not be lost. Some of the messages were: “Rapists rape people, not outfits.” “Menstruation is normal, rape is not.” “Streets of Delhi belong to women too.”
It is not just the streets of Delhi but the streets of the world belong to women. They should feel safe in the company of men and on the roads. Women should not be made to think of men as predators! After all, half of the planet population is female.