The ‘sanitary pad’ campaign against rape and sexism on campus has spread from New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia to Kolkata’s Jadavpur University.
Days after four students of Jamia were asked to explain why they had put up sanitary pads with protest messages on them at public places across the campus, similar pads with similar messages have come up in Jadavpur.
The sanitary pads, stuck on walls on campus, are written across with messages that read, “Victim blaming is also called gender violence”, and “Naming and shaming the victim is sexual violence”.
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Rubaiyat G B Biswas, a third year student of comparative literature, said, “It is a protest and sensitisation at the same time. People who consider discussions on menstruation and masturbation as taboo should understand that these are natural. The messages on sanitary pads have also been put up to protest the culture of blaming the victims of molestation.”
A first year student of English literature who declined to give her name said, “Recently a girl had been allegedly molested within the campus and since then she has been looked down upon as having cooked up the story, because she did not have the support of the majority of students.”
JU, one of India’s most prestigious institutions, has had a reputation for being a bastion of free thought and liberalism. The university was wracked by the so-called ‘Hok Kolorob’ (Let there be Noise) protests lasting months after a woman student was allegedly molested on campus.
The protests, which began in September 2014, triggered solidarity movements in other Indian cities, and finally led to the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti in January 2015.
Arumita Mitra, a second year student of Philosophy who is leading the sanitary pads protest, said that they had decided upon this unusual way to drive home the point that rape or molestation was not a woman’s fault.
“Menstruation is still a taboo subject among the progressive masses as well. After the ‘Kiss of Love’ protests, students of JU have decided to protest in this new way. We need to spread the awareness that old ways of thinking must change,” Mitra said.
The ‘Kiss of Love’ protest against moral policing began in Kerala in November 2014, and soon spread to other parts of India.
On March 12, sanitary pads with anti-gender discrimination and gender-sensitization messages appeared on campus in Jamia, which were described as “repugnant” by sections of teachers and students at the university, but which drew support from students’ groups in other universities.
The protest drew on the international ‘Pads Against Sexism’ campaign that was begun on International Women’s Day (March 8) by a German woman named Elonë Kastratia, who wrote messages against rape and sexism on sanitary pads and sticking them at public places across her town Karlsruhe in Germany.
Kastratia, whose campaign went viral with the hashtag #PadsAgainstSexism, said she was inspired by a tweet that said “Imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods”. The organisers of the protest in Jamia claimed that Kastratia purportedly congratulated them.