Is space available to sexual minorities for sexual expression on social media?

While social media and sexual expression is usually viewed from a popular perspective, Hidden Pockets and Point of View decided to look at the same from a different lens; from the eyes of communities usually considered to be sexual minorities. Hidden Pockets and Point of View jointly hosted a panel on Social Media and Sexual Expression during Digital Citizen Summit 2017 on September 21, 2017. The speakers on the panel included Nadika – trans rights activist and writer, Smita Vanniyar – Point of View, Mahika – Feminism in India (FII), Jasmine Lovely George – Hidden Pockets, Nipun Malhotra – Nipman Foundation and Brindaalakshmi.K – Hidden Pockets. These speakers either represented or shared their expertise on different sexually marginalized communities like women, persons with different sexual orientations and gender (LGBTQIA) and persons with different disabilities.

The panel focused on understanding how inclusive social media platforms are towards these sexually marginalized communities. Exploring the challenges posed and solutions provided by social media platforms, the panel looked into the aspects of access, challenges and privacy in relation to the different communities.


  • With social media platforms looking to verify all profiles with identification documents, the LGBTQIA+ community faces the constant risk of their gender and sexual identities and orientation being revealed on these platforms.
  • The privacy of persons with disabilities is compromised when their disability is revealed through images shared or the community of people that they are connected to on the platform.


  • It was pointed out that social media primarily approaches content from a male gaze. This results in the censorship of certain categories of content on social media platforms. For instance: the body images of plus size women are filtered out while the body images of regular size women are pushed more on these platforms, thereby limiting the access to certain kinds of content on the platforms.
  • The LGBTQIA+ community faces the issue of their sexual or gender identity being revealed on social media by ex-partners or others who threaten them with extortion. Most cases of extortion go unrecorded due to the threat of IPC Sec 377. Victims gets threatens of images or videos being leaked. Unaware of their legal right against extortion, most give into these threats and pay the ransom demanded. It was noted that IPC Section 384 deals with punishment for extortion and IPC Section 388 deals with punishment for extortion using Sec 377.
  • Persons with disability find it hard to express their sexuality when their disability is visible on social media platforms.
  • Closed men-only Whatsapp groups perpetuating sexism and objectification of women, continue to exist. When asked if such women groups exist, the answer was no. Women-only groups exist. However the nature of these groups and the kind of content shared in these groups is very different from the men-only groups.

Though social media posses its own set of challenges, it’s advantages cannot be negated. Social platforms have also made Internet spaces more accessible for people from these communities to be open about their identity.


  • Access becomes a challenge for person with disabilities especially those with visual impairment. How inclusive are these platforms for a person with disabilities is questionable. That said, social media platforms have also given them access, opening doors to person with other kinds of disabilities where none existed before.
  • Social platforms gave members of the LGBTQIA+ community the space to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time in their lives by allowing them to create anonymous profiles with a different name and profile photograph.
  • Social media platforms also allow for transgender persons to be present on these platforms without disclosing their gender identity. It allows for them to come out if and when they wish to.
  • Social media platforms also provides access to create secret groups in support of different groups of people with certain challenges like the LGBTQIA+ allowing them access to a support system

In conclusion, when asked what would be the one thing that should or shouldn’t change about social media, most panelists agreed that social media may have its flaws but social media has opened several doors. However, it might be useful if these platforms become safe spaces where individuals can be themselves without worrying about any of the above mentioned issues. The onus should shift from individuals onto the platforms, governments and the Internet to make them safe for users.

Public Health : Young People in the Conversation

Hidden Pockets Collective took part in Public Consultation held by Prayasand Human Right Law Network in Bhopal in 2017. This year the theme was around Legal interventions in Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Are young people there in the National Health Policy 2017? In order to answer this question, it is important to understand the definition of young people. According to the National Youth Policy 2014, young people in India, which is people in the age group of 15-29 years of age, comprise 27.5% of the population. At present, about 34% of India’s Gross National Income (GNI) is contributed by the youth, aged 15-29 years. Government of India spends about Rs.55,000 crores on non-targeted schemes including health designed for various demographic segments of which youth are also beneficiaries.

Considering the youth contribution to the national population and Gross National Income, it becomes pertinent to understand the National Health Policy from the perspective of young people.

Areas where young people have been mentioned in the National Health Policy

It is essential to understand that though the National Youth Policy acknowledges that 15-29 years of age is the age group of the youth, the National Health Policy nowhere specifically addresses the need of this particular age group although it mentions and includes adolescents with respect to several aspects. However, taking into consideration the different aspects that pertain to the youth, following may be seen as the areas that address the needs of the youth:

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Objectives under Progressively achieve universal health coverage:

“Assuring availability of free, comprehensive primary health care services, for all aspects of reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health and for the most prevalent communicable, non-communicable and occupational diseases in the population.”

Under Policy Thrust – Preventive and promotive health:

“an expansion of scope of interventions to include early detection and response to early childhood development delays and disability, adolescent and sexual health education, behavior change with respect to tobacco and alcohol use, screening, counseling for primary prevention and secondary prevention from common chronic illness –both communicable and non-communicable diseases.”

National Health programmes:

The policy gives special emphasis to the health challenges of adolescents and long term potential of investing in their health care.

“The scope of Reproductive and Sexual Healthshould be expanded to address issues like inadequate calorie intake, nutrition status and psychological problems interalia linked to misuse of technology, etc.”

However, this seems to only include youth between the age of 15-18 or 19.

In order to better understand the presence of youth in the National Health Policy, it becomes important to understand the policy in the light of the National Youth Policy, which was passed earlier in 2014.

Alignment between National Health Policy and National Youth Policy

Maternal health

National Health Policy 2017 and the National Youth Policy 2014, both address maternity health and the need to address the different aspects related to it for the mother and the newborn child.  It is progressive that the government acknowledges the need for expansion of reproductive and sexual health for adolescents and the need to address social determinants for maternal health. However, how it intends to implement these measures has to be seen especially with respect to National Health Policy.

Education on nutrition

Both the policy frameworks have acknowledged the need to educate the youth about the need for the education among Youth about nutrition and calorie intake

Sex education

The National Youth Policy notes the need to create “awareness about family planning, birth control, STDs, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, especially in rural areas and (c) addressing issues concerning emotional and mental health (e.g. risk of depression and potential suicide attempts), esp. in case of adolescent youth.”

Addressing high risk groups for sexually transmitted diseases

“Enhanced capacity for detection and treatment of communicable diseases must be developed, especially for pregnant mothers and other high-risk groups.” – National Youth Policy 2014

While there are alignments with respect to several policies, there are several gaps between the policies and even otherwise. These gaps may have a far-reaching effect on the sexual and reproductive health of the youth.

Gaps between both policies and otherwise

Addressing sex ratio

Along with maternal health, the National Youth Policy also addresses the need to bring down female feticide to improve child sex ratio

“There is a need to pay special attention to health issues concerning women youth. This would entail greater pre-natal and post-natal care for women in vulnerable age group of 14-18 years, need to bring down maternal and infant mortality rates, campaign against female feticide to improve child sex ratio, etc.”

Marginalized and disadvantaged youth

The National Youth Policy 2014 acknowledges the need to support “a few segments of the youth population require special attention. These include economically backward youth, women, youth with disabilities, youth living in conflict affected regions including left wing extremism, and youth at risk due to substance abuse, human trafficking or hazardous working conditions.”

This is not the case with the National Health Policy. Except women as a group, the intersectionality of young people with other groups of people has not been dealt with in detail in the National Health Policy 2017. There seems to be a gap in understanding the impact of an individual being subject to multiple challenges due to the intersectionality.

For example: A person may be disabled, transgender and HIV positive


  •      Equity: Reducing inequity would mean affirmative action to reach the poorest. It would mean minimizing disparity on account of gender, poverty, caste, disability, other forms of social exclusion and geographical barriers. It would imply greater investments and financial protection for the poor who suffer the largest burden of disease.
  •      Health Status and Programme Impact: Establish regular tracking of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) Index as a measure of burden of disease and its trends by major categories by 2022.
  •      “Research on social determinants of health along with neglected health issues such as disability and transgender health will be promoted.”

Transgender violence:

  •      Unfortunately, both policies do not focus on the needs of sexual minorities going beyond the ambit of HIV/AIDS with focused interventions on the high risk communities like MSM (Men who have Sex with Men), Transgender, FSW (Female Sex workers), etc. and prioritized geographies for control of HIV/AIDS. It is worth noting though that the National Youth Policy was passed in January 2014 much before the NALSA judgment of 2014 that recognised transgenders as the third gender in the country.
  •      Gender violence also affects the transgender community, going beyond just women. However, the policy limits the scope to women.

Gender based violence:

  •      The section on Gender based violence notes that public hospitals need to be made women-friendly and the staff need orientation to gender sensitivity issues. It also states that healthcare to survivors and victims of gender based violence needs to be provided free and with dignity in the public and private sector.
  •      Gender violence also affects the transgender community, going beyond just women. However, the policy limits the scope to women.
  •      Even with respect to women, the policy does not qualify or define gender violence or gender sensitivity issues.

Universal Health Coverage and Right to Health

The 12th Plan seeks to extend the outreach of public health services for moving towards the goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through National Health Mission. – National Youth Policy 2014

National Health Policy 2017 has reiterated the same. It advocates an “incremental assurance based approach”. The policy tries to understand Right to Health from two perspectives.

The policy mentions that the medical tribunal will also be responsible for resolution of disputes related healthcare and also the need for protection of patients including right to information, access to medical records, confidentiality, privacy, among others. Information related to health is of sensitive nature especially sexual and reproductive health. This could include details about HIV and AIDS patients, abortion data (both married and unmarried women), individuals affected by other STDs, among others. What happens if there is a data leak? The government recently admitted to Aadhaar data leak.  Several state governments including Madhya Pradesh have mandated linking Aadhaar to HIV treatment. News reports note a drop in registration at ART centres since the announcement of this integration.

Right to privacywas recently declared as a fundamental right. However, there is no law protecting the privacy of Indians. It is worth noting that the verdict on mandating Aadhaar is expected in November 2017.

The consultation was an excellent initiative to bring people working in the public health sector under one umbrella and discuss issues affecting various different communities. We shared our concerns regarding young people and their role in the public health sector.


Note : Brindaalakshmi had attended and presented on behalf of Hidden Pockets Collective.


Camera and Girls, Revert the gaze for a person living with HIV.


P1050088P1050121Hidden Pockets Collective conducted a workshop with young positive girls using cameras. It was really exciting to talk to the photographers who covered the event, from the idea of “reverting the gaze” to muses becoming the photographer.

It was an interesting insight into the world of photography. Check out the podcast link below.


















These images were taken by the young girls.


Events conducted in 2015









Formal Workshops:



© The copyrights rights of the images belong to Pallavi.

Gender Trouble Workshop

Performances as such take a route they say,  performance lets you take shapes, sizes and expand beyond one’s imagination. It helps you break the mold. Performance might be the ultimate gender blender.  It speaks more than the language of binaries and it takes it further and mixes it up.

Gender Trouble Workshop was one of Hidden Pockets attempt to discover Gender in its all ambit, to see it getting performed and to create a discussion between the viewer and the performer. The aim was to problematize the term ‘gender’ and see ourselves performing it.

There were two performances for the evening. We had a male dancer performing a dance recital on Devdas songs. His rendition attempted to combine both Bharatnatyam and Kathak dance forms and create a space for exploring masculine and feminine features. It was a wonderful performance which through its art and movements was trying to navigate a space which was fraught with tension. It was interesting to realize that after the performance the engagement between the dancer and viewer was more on the lines of dance forms; the viewer’s engagement was restricted as a consumer of the form, the viewer could not have experienced what the dancer felt while performing. It becomes a cerebral engagement, where we see gender getting performed within the domain of art and limit it to an aesthetics level.











We are used to seeing dance being performed, we perceive it in one specific way and then we engage with it in a limited fashion. We expect no more from the performance, we don’t engage with it. Is there a space for the dancer to decide, to talk, to share his experiences, his inner most subjectivities in the performance. Can dance just be a performance for the dancer with a mask, which does not get into a repetitive mode?

This was in stark opposition to the next performer, which was a drag king performance. A women decked up in different attires took us through various bodies that one is used to seeing in public spaces. In this performance it was interesting to realize that audience was forced to occupy spaces, think about their bodies as subjects of role performances. On being asked to act as men, everyone automatically opened up their bodies, occupied more spaces, there was a sense of entitlement which was reflected in the bodies, where as acting as a woman led to curling up of bodies, act of closing, and occupying as little space as model. Even making people walk in the space in different gender roles was interesting. We all had our own versions of bodies, roles, and genders in our minds. We understood and played out roles even while watching a performance.


Our very act of watching was a gendered experience. During the drag performances, one of the critical aspects of this is taking the makeup applied on one’s face,   the very act of putting make up to enact one gender to the act of taking it off, the movements, the parts of the face that went into the making of the roles, all play an important role. It was interesting to see the performer remove her make up, of being a man to slowly lightening one’s own skin, playing with shadows on one’s own face. How do we respond to these changing aspects of a face? At what aspect of the make up does one become a man or a woman? When does one stop performing?

It was interesting to employ the medium of art to engage in a silent meditation about gender, to 151018_DELHI_HP-GT_GENDER-TROUBLE_26view it, perceive it and then maybe try spelling it. 


Spoken Word – Abortion Rights

As part of the September 28th movement on access to services related to Abortion, Hidden Pockets performed it first ever spoken word performance on issue of Abortion.

Hidden Pockets’ first ever #SpokenWordperformance at ‘100 Thousand poets for change’ event organised by Bring Back The Poets, Delhi with Oindrila, Jasmine and Pallavi. We shouted for #abortionrightsand #AbortTheStigmaand joined the International campaign to talk about #abortionby Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)


An excerpt from the performance :

Married? Hell, No!

I work 13 hours a day, I tried to keep a plant once, it died in 6 days

I can’t tell you how excruciating it is to even do my own laundry at the end of each day.

Are you telling me to bring 2 more people into this, throw all my life plans away?

What about my anguish, my choice to not procreate?

What about the child who will resent the bitter mother

who crumbles slowly under her dead dreams’ weight?

What sort of future do you envisage for all of us by telling me to get married?

Let this be a choice, not a survival tactic.

By Oindrila Duttagupta


Photo Courtesy: Pallavi

Unleash Lab 2017, Denmark : SDGs

August 2017, Hidden Pockets got selected to be a part of Unleash Lab 2017 in Denmark. A nine days event where Unleash focused on 7 themes which are directly linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The themes were Food, Health, Water, Energy, Education, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Consumption and Production. So what was UNLEASH model ? UNLEASH brought 1000 talents together and converted their ideas into 200 business cases for sustainable development, collaborating with companies, academia and civil society.



Hidden Pockets represented Health. Talents under Health were further divided into sub themes; Access, Disability, Education, Mother and families and Mental health. Under Health we worked on access to Health. Under the sub themes we were asked to work with small groups on different topics related to access to health. Finally groups were created under access sub theme. Access to Finance, Early detection of Preeclampsia, Connecting the service providers and the Medicine suppliers. I worked on Maternal Deaths – Early detection of Preeclampsia. It was a great experience to work with people from different back grounds. The team had a mix of people from academia, a person from NGO, practitioner and a designer. My team members were

– Yvonne Mburu (Kenya), a scientist and healthcare consultant with over 10 years of experience in cancer immunology.
– Anne Vaandrager (Netherlands), a Design Activist. Her work is based on in-depth research that focuses on social shortcomings and inequalities in society.
– John Kigaru (Kenya), a Nurse Practitioner. He is the CEO and Co-founder of PregMum limited,which has partnered with Strathmore University to develop Health-Tech solutions to improve early detection and response to obstetric emergencies at the grassroots level in Kenya.
– Olivia Curl (United States), founder of GIRLWITHABOOKMovement, a non-profit media organization that advocates for girls’ education and gender equality. She has worked in community-level reproductive healthcare and is particularly interested in the relationship between reproductive rights, education, and gender equality.

Pilot Project: 

The project is called SheTHRIVES. It a simple, effective screening tool to identify pregnant women at risk for eclampsia and pre-eclampsia. We selected Mukuru Slum in Nairobi, Kenya as a pilot case study for testing and initial implementation. The women in this area are at a great risk of maternal death from pre-eclampsia, due to a lack of preventative screening measures. So we created SheTHRIVES which is a 3-piece pre-eclampsia screening kit with digital blood pressure cuff, urine dipstick test, and simple digital interface which would be used by the community and student volunteers at the local church to detect early signs of pre-eclampsia among the pregnant women.

Unleash Lab 2017 was an amazing experience. We learnt how to work in a team, with people from different background, different culture, different style.
We learnt a lot about each others culture. We learnt how a particular idea might work in a particular region but might not work in a different region. We had to understand the culture of different regions and community. Unleash helped us in understanding the community better. It also helped many of us who are running our small startups to understand how a proposal is made, what is the investor looking for and what all to keep in mind while framing a proposal.

All the SDGs are interconnected to each other. One cannot work on one SGD by ignoring the other. All should be moving forward together. And that is what Unleash Lab 2017 taught us, “How to move together”.

What happens when a gynaecologist, a poet and a man walk into the room?

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With four lovely performers and three speakers, Hidden Pockets and Krantikalli for #Sep28 campaign took this initiative to bring young people together and talk about Women’s Health and the City. The best part was that we had a gynecologist with us as a speaker. Dr. Suchitra is a medical officer for Family planning Association of India at the Delhi branch. Having a gynecologist among us made the audience very excited. The youngest in the crowd was a 16 years old performer.

The event was conducted at the Playground Creative House in Defense Colony, Delhi. The event started with two of the lovely performers reciting their poems. Brindalakshmi through her poems voiced the need for Red Lipstick, as if every women in the room was dying to put the red lipstick but was scared.  Anuradha recited her poetry in Hindi wherein she connected various different women and their struggles with health. Ankita spoke about body shaming and loving our own bodies while Amia brought a young adolescent’s anxieties into the room. The room was filled with an aura where we all had some questions to be answered. We all could connect with the poems, and we all connected with each other.

To the make the evening more interesting, we had our speakers next.  We had three speakers, Aisha from Hidden Pockets Collective, who mapped public health centers, and is a single women staying in a metropolitan city, went first. Second was Nitin, a man in a women’s meet, who spoke about how important it is to be a part of such discussions. As a partner, a brother and a friend, he wanted to be more engaged in these issues and be more sensitive to such issues. And third was the gynecologist, Dr. Suchitra.



The conversation was mostly focused on discussing public health centers and how difficult it is for women to access health centers, followed by sharing of experience on how it felt to visit Family Planning Association for the first time. Nitin shared his experience about visiting clinics and understanding how important it is to visit these centers with your partners.  And then we had the gynecologist talking about safe abortion, about how it is a women’s right to get a safe abortion and also about myths related to abortion.

Slowly the audience in the room started opening up. And then one by one we had the women asking questions. There was an excitement as well as seriousness in the room. Excitement because women were finally asking questions directly to a gynecologist and seriousness because all were paying attention to what the doctor was saying. The questions were related to periods, methods to contraception, pregnancy, safe abortion etc..

The audience also got to know about FPAI(Family Planning Association of India).  FPA India envisages sexual and reproductive health for all as a human right, including gender equality leading to alleviation of poverty, population stabilization and sustainable development. They have clinics around India such as in Delhi, Agra, Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. We got to know how  FPAI follows ‘No Refusal Policy’ and also about how it gives importance to “after care” post having abortion and helps the person in understanding choices to contraception.

To sum up the beautiful evening, we had our performers recite their amazing poems. By the end a few still had questions, few looked content and while a few others were still in that fascinating aura.

Hidden Pockets Collective would like to thank out host partners @Krantikaali for helping us conduct this event in Delhi.

Pic credit: Riya Singh










Logical Indian and Gender Talk

a group of people standing and posing for images for Mash Mixer

Hidden Pockets Collective was invited to be part of talk on #gendersensitization with The Logical Indian and MASH Project in Bangalore. It was wonderful to be able to discuss Gender and its complexities with a group of young people working in different set ups.

Jasmine giving talk for Logical Indian

We discussed about how spaces around us are gendered and how most of us negotiate these spaces and how some of us find it more difficult than the others!

APCRSHR9: Asia Pacific coming together to discuss Sexual and Reproductive health?

Hidden Pockets Collective participated at 9th Asia Pacific Conference on  Reproductive and  Sexual Health Rights in Vietnam in 2017.

The Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights  is a biennial gathering of civil society, young people, academia, government, media, private sector, and development partners from the region concerned about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The first APCRSHRwas organized in 2001 in Manila and the succeeding seven conferences were hosted by countries across Asia as Thailand (2003), Malaysia (2005), India (2007), China (2009), Indonesia (2011), Philippines (2014), and Myanmar (2016). It was the first time Viet Nam hosted this conference in the context of Viet Nam had big change in laws and policies related to SRHR.We were there to present our work with young people around abortionand comprehensive sexuality education.

It was super exciting to be there with some amazing other organisations from India like the YP Foundation and CREA.






As part of ASAP Youth Champions,  Aisha George from Hidden Pockets collective was there to meet young people from Asia Pacific working on issue of abortion.

Jasmine George, as part of Women Deliver fellowship was there to share stories around usage of audio podcasts to deliver comprehensive sexuality education in schools in India.





FC2also had a booth in the conference where they were showcasing their products and even helped us in understanding their female condoms. Remember, we have reviewedtheir products in the past and were only happy to meet them in person and also get a chance to see a demonstration of the Female Condoms.


Overall, it was a great experience to meet young advocates working on sexual and reproductive health and demanding changes from their various governments. It was also fun learning about so many great initiatives being conducted in countries like Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan , Mangolia and many other countries.