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Do You Still Remember This Face? [A Flashback]

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By Tania Goklany:

Most (but not all) victims of sexual harassment are women. The reason is that our culture encourages men to be sexually assertive and to perceive women in sexual terms. As a result, social interaction in work places, campuses, and elsewhere can readily take on sexual overtones.

The Ruchika Girhotra case involves the molestation of 14-year-old Ruchika Girhotra in 1990 by the Inspector General of Police Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore in Haryana. After she made a complaint, the victim, her family, and her friends were systematically harassed by the police leading to her eventual suicide. On December 22, 2009, after 19 years, 40 adjournments, and more than 400 hearings, the court finally pronounced Rathore guilty under Section 354 IPC (molestation) and sentenced him to six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000. On hearing his verdict, Rathore had a distinct smile on his face, clearly, suggestive of the mockery he had made of our judicial system.

Two weeks after the inquiry indicted, Ruchika was expelled from her school for no genuine reason. The school actively participated in plotting against her. It has been alleged that Ruchika was expelled from school to avoid embarrassing Rathore’s daughter who was her classmate. Ruchika’s expulsion from school was used later in the court to question her character.

After her expulsion, Ruchika confined herself indoors. Whenever she went out she was followed and abused by Rathore’s henchmen. Rathore deployed policemen in plainclothes in front of Ruchika’s house to keep an eye on the family.

False cases of theft, murder and civil defamation were charged on Ruchika’s father and her ten year old brother Ashu. Aradhana, Ruchika’s friend and sole witness in the molestation case had ten civil cases filed against her.

In 1993, Ashu, who was thirteen years by then, was picked up in the market place near his house by police in plain clothes. They drove him to the Crime Investigating Agency. His hands were tied on his back and he was made to bend. His feet were tied with a weight. He was kept in this uncomfortable position for an extended period of time. While still in illegal confinement, Ashu was taken to his house and beaten mercilessly in front of Ruchika by Rathore. Rathore then threatened her, saying that if she did not take back the complaint, her father, and then she herself, would face the same fate. Ashu was paraded in handcuffs in his neighbourhood.

Rathore tortured them and persisted to withdraw the case. On December 28, 1993, days after Ashu was paraded in handcuffs in his locality, Ruchika consumed poison. She died the next day. Rathore threw a party that night to celebrate.

Rathore refused to release Ruchika’s body to her father unless he signed blank sheets of paper. The blank papers were later used by the police to establish that the family had accepted Ruchika’s forged autopsy report. Rathore also threatened to kill Ashu, who was still in illegal police custody. At this time, Ashu was allegedly unconscious in lock-up. He had been stripped naked and beaten the previous night by drunken policemen. He was brought back to his house, still unconscious, after Ruchika’s last rites were over.

CBI after opposing Rathode’s plea asked for a six month’s sentence which was rejected by a CBI special court in Chandigarh. They finally enhanced his earlier six month sentence and he was immediately taken into custody and incarcerated at Burail prison.

What finally conspired was less than what was even expected out of the Indian judicial system. The maximum punishment prescribed under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code is 2 years imprisonment and in addition it is a non bailable offence. His being acquitted on these charges with just a six month imprisonment and 1000 Rs. fine is symbolic of the inefficiency of the legal system in serving justice to the needy.

The final judgment in this case which was delivered after 19 years of the actual incident is too little too late. His being imprisoned for one and half years after such a long time does not serve the purpose of eliminating crime from daily lives of our citizens. His playing with the judicial system is just another example for other criminals who can mislead our judicial system for their own selfish interests whenever they want. Not just him but our own judicial system’s lack of a proper mechanism to check such crimes is a failure on the face of the largest democracy in the world.

You must be to comment.
  1. Arastu

    It couldnt get any worse. Brilliant Tania.

  2. Sadhogopal Ram

    Due to such linchpin Judicial System and people like bloody S.P. Singh Rathore.. India is yet to come on par with its status of being a Democratic country.

    Thank you for writing this, Tania.

  3. navneet

    awesum article tania..hats off 😀 😀

  4. Vanessa

    Bloody Indian judicial & police system. Victims continue to suffer while perpetrators (rapists, molesters, murderers, goons & thugs) throw parties and get elected to big posts. How in the world is india shining? Pray, in what way?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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