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Each Time A Gun Lands In The Wrong Hands, Amendments Will Be Needed

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By Shruti Kesavan:

“People killing, people dying
Children hurt and even crying
Can you practice what you preach
Or would you turn the other cheek
Father, father, father, help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questioning
Where is the love?”

These famous lyrics of the band Black Eyed Peas from their song ‘Where is the love?’ aptly describe my emotions with respect to the rising gun culture in the United States. We may be from different borders or even cultures but when a life is nipped off brutally, one is left wondering if we are heading in the right direction. More so if that life is an innocent six-year-old who is cruelly killed, shot in the head a multiple number of times, our emotions don’t vary. The recent shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th 2012, in Newtown Connecticut was one such incident. That day was like any other day, when parents left their kids in the safe hands of the school, wishing them a wonderful day. There was just one thing that did not fit this fairy tale; these kids were never going to see their parents again. Never again would these parents be complaining about how these children don’t finish their cereal or their homework.

Sandy Hook Elementary School

The day was a normal one until Adam Lanza decided to take things into his hands, when he walked into the school and shot every soul that crossed his sight. He began his shooting spree by shooting his mother Nancy Lanza in their Newtown home and then drove off with his mother’s collection of rifles only deciding to write off the lives of twenty innocent, fragile, helpless children and their six teachers while leaving two others wounded. Not only did he walk around shooting mercilessly but also shot each child multiple times. He then turned the gun on to himself when he saw the police approaching him, some eye witnesses stated.

This was the second deadliest school shooting in the U.S after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Seung Hui Cho, a South Korean, who was a former senior level undergraduate student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute shot 32 people and wounded 17 people. This is by far considered to be the most deadliest and gruesome of all shootings in the U.S. This incident took place on January 18th, 2007.

Some of the other case studies which describe the gun culture in America are briefly mentioned below. They will not only shock you but will also bring into light a very important issue of the increasing affinity of people with guns and how it is affecting millions of simple lives.

The Bath School disaster which occurred on May 18th 1927 in Michigan was one the most gruesome of incidents. Andrew Kehoe killed 38 elementary school children and 6 adults and also injured 58 others before committing suicide. The final explosion was when he pressed the detonator attached to him. This has been the deadliest mass murder in U.S history sharply followed by the Sandy Hook shooting. The reason for him turning into a fiend was because of his defeat in the 1926 township clerk elections.

The Binghamton shooting was carried out by Jiverly Voong, a neutralized American citizen from Vietnam when he entered into the facility where he was previously taking English classes. This incident occurred on April 3rd 2008 where 13 were left killed including his former teacher and classmates and he also wounded four people in the process.

The Ford Hood incident happened on November 5th 2009 where a single gunman, Nidal Mali Hasan, a 39-year-old serving as a physician in the base mercilessly killed 13 people and wounded 29 others. This incident took place in the U.S military base and was the worst shooting inside the same.

The California State University Fullerton massacre took place on 12th of July in 1976 where the librarian of the University decided to spread havoc and bloodshed. Edward Charles the custodian of the library not only killed 7 students and co-workers but also wounded many others. He was armed with a semi-automatic rifle which he had purchased for Buena Park Kmart. He was then charged for one count of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder.

The incidents mentioned above bring into light a very important cultural gap which needs to be mended, which is the U.S gun culture. America has always held affections for firearms. This is something they have possessed from the very beginning, be it to protect themselves from the Native Americans and animals in the past or simply to protect themselves now. There are currently 300 million guns in circulation in America which can get into the hands of the mentally unfit resulting in incidents as these.

The year 2010 saw 358 deaths revolving the rifles in the U.S, and 6009 deaths involving the usage of pistols which also included suicides. Some of the high profile shootings were of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King to name a few.

Coming back to the Sandy Hook shootings, the shooting went on for 15 minutes and the guns the perpetrator had would certainly shock you. He had a .233 calibre Bushmaster XM- 15 rifle, 10mm Gluck 20SF handgun, 9mm SIG Sauer handgun, a .30 Enfield rifle, .22 Martin and a .45 Henry. Out of these the last three were left at home. Ever wondered how he got so many rifles and shotguns? Ironically his mother was a gun enthusiast. Even though Adam Lanza was old enough to carry a long gun (through which most of the shootings took place) he was too young to carry handguns. This only brings us to question the second amendment which has to do with the possessions of firearms. The primary reason why people in the U.S possess guns is for their safety but now it’s more about harming others than protecting yourself.

Adam was said to be suffering from Asperger’s syndrome which is a sort of autism. Should the law be more stringent about whom it is providing the rifles to or should rifles be provided to the common crowd at all? After all if we take the law into our hands or even begin protecting ourselves, why do we need the police in the first place?

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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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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