Public dissent is a growing trend amongst the youth in India. What's more interesting is that its a growing trend for women in India. Women are finally stepping out and publicly criticising the government for policies they do not believe in. They are protesting against instances of violence and patriarchy that fuel the anger ingrained in them after years of subjugation. With a larger number of people protesting there will inevitably be a larger number of people getting arrested or detained by the police. Also for the first time, a large number of women are being arrested or detained for protesting and public dissent.
It is for this reason that Angellica Aribam, the national secretary of the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), wrote an open letter to the Delhi police commissioner, asking him to be sensitive to the needs of women in police custody.
In her letter she explains that she is not complaining about the violence displayed by police, she has no qualms about being locked up in custody for long hours, she is used to that by now.
However, what she is irked by is the lack of sensitivity towards the female body in police stations. Her first demand to the commissioner is that all lock ups must keep sanitary napkins in stock for when women are held. She goes on to say, "o ur bodies are extremely unpredictable and we don’t know for sure when our periods might start," as quoted by Scroll.
In her letter she describes an experience of her own, when she was being held in custody and was suddenly interrupted by her period. She explains how the officer on duty looked at her in the most bewildered manner when she asked for a sanitary towel, despite the officer being a woman. She describes those hours in lock up as the most gruesome experience she's had. Who can blame her though, sitting there for hours, in what can only be described as a less than hygienic surrounding, without anything to control her flow, it sounds like torture.
Her second demand to the commissioner is to ensure that all ladies toilets in police stations are kept clean. " Wherever we have been detained be it Parliament Street or Mandir Marg, the condition of those washrooms are it never fails to make me squirmish. Sometimes, even water is scarce", she says.
Even though women may be incarcerated in far fewer numbers than men, it does not mean that when they are, they can make do with whatever filth is left in their bathrooms. Keeping a toilet clean is as basic as basic can be, although it seems to allude a number of people in this country. The state of public toilets in this country are abysmal.
Her last request, is possibly something every woman would request from anyone in this country. The sensitisation of people towards periods. Why is it something that is frowned upon? Why is it hidden in brown paper bags, and talked about in hushed tones. It is the most common biological phenomenon that every woman goes through. And yet for some reason we are meant to be ashamed of it. It is time people in India understand that periods are not a venereal disease, they are completely natural, and there's nothing we can do about them.
" It is not my fault that I get periods. I didn't choose it. It didn’t happen to me because of my sins ," says Angellica Aribam.