Can we kiss? Love Matters India and the end of lockdown

India has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with the death toll now standing at more than 30,000. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in March but began easing restrictions in May to try and lessen the devastating economic effects. And as India began to ‘unlock’, the local Love Matters team were inundated with questions from their community of users about just what it was or wasn’t safe to do.

Can I meet my girlfriend/boyfriends at a park/restaurant? Can I travel on the bus/metro? Can we kiss? Can we have sex? In response to questions like these the Love Matters India team put together a Love and Dating Guide, explaining the concepts of social distancing, sanitisation and the new public interaction norms and offering advice on how to stay safe. Love Matters India has also continued to chronicle the impact of the pandemic on love, sex and relationships. Relationships need space is a regular theme – even the one we have with ourselves. But how the space for self-pleasure has shrunk was described vividly and humorously in a story shared by a young user about his father knocking on the bathroom door at a very delicate moment.

Too much togetherness
If space was one issue, time was another. Lovers often complain about not getting enough time with each other. But with the pandemic that’s changed for those living together who found they were having too much time with each other. Love Matters India shared the story of Sameer and Ankita who, after being initially excited about the lockdown, were driven to thoughts of separation within one month of constantly being with each other.

#AkhirKyon (But Why?)
And for those who were already in difficult relationships, the pandemic brought home the worst – having to spend day and night with the one person you wished was never home. Cases of domestic violence shot up in India with the National Commission for Women recording 587 cases between March 23 and April 16 compared to 396 complaints between February 27 and March 22. This was not just an Indian phenomenon, domestic violence has risen sharply around the world during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The Love Matters India team decided to ask why this was so via an online Tweetathon under the hashtag #AkhirKyon (But Why?).

Break the Silence
The online campaign was created in partnership with individuals and organisations working on the issue of domestic violence. Ahead of the Tweetathon, Love Matters India shared video testimonials from their film Chuppi Todo (Break The Silence). This 20-minute film had been created and screened in rural villages in Rajasthan as part of an earlier Love Matters India campaign against intimate partner violence, #BearNoMore .

The team also documented the lived realities of domestic violence victims amid COVID-19 in a collection of stories from around the country – ‘He is at home all day, so…’

As well as asking questions, the team talked through the solutions, including the need to work on greater and more specific content and campaigns to build upon gender equality, dismantling patriarchal norms and stereotypes, condoning toxic masculinity and male privilege that have fuelled domestic violence in India.

Organisations participating in the Tweetathon, included the Foundation of India (PFI), International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Breakthrough, Shakti Shalini, CREA, Mash Project,Foundation, Haiyya, Youth Ki Awaaz, Gaylaxy Magazine and Dr SafeHands. The Tweetathon saw over 500+ tweets by 57 users in about 90 minutes with over 3500000+ Twitter impressions.

Read more about the response of the Love Matters teams around the world to COVID-19 in this earlier article.