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Our Collective Shame: Minors Who Were Raped And Forgotten

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By Rhea Kumar:

Just four months after the Nirbhaya gang rape, the city of New Delhi has witnessed stormy protests again. The issue is the same, except that this time the victim is not a young woman, but a little girl of five years of age who was kidnapped, gang raped brutally and locked up in a room to die, only to be found 40 hours after the gruesome incident in a critical condition. Just when it seemed that things were improving with stricter legislation against rape coming into force and the police force being sensitized for more effective response to complaints, the nation was jolted with a cruel reminder that nothing had actually changed. A report by the National Crime Records Bureau reveals that there has been a 336% spurt in child rape cases from 2001 to 2011. What is even more shocking is that 10% of the total number of rapes in 2011 involved minors as victims. Going by these mind-boggling statistics, things are clearly getting worse rather than improving.

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The victim in this recent case is only one in a sea of millions of young girls across India who have fallen prey to this heinous crime. The statistics may show a sharp increase in the number of rape cases in the last three months, but such crimes have been occurring for the last twenty or thirty years in our country. Despite the increase in the number of cases reported, there remain an even larger number who never report their stories due to fear of social stigma and intimidation by the accused or police officials. Justice for these innocent victims remains a distant dream. And their childhood, so brutally snatched from them by depraved monsters, is gone forever.

For years, women have been accused of inviting rape through their provocative attire and free lifestyle. We were told to dress ‘properly’, avoid venturing out at night and ignore sleazy glances and comments rather than retaliate in self-defense. Society has tolerated the depravity of such individuals for long, choosing to restrict women rather than punish men for their indecent behavior. But what excuse do rapists have now? What gives them the right to violate the innocence of these young girls and maim them for life? How have these girls invited such barbaric treatment? Clearly, the issue is not one of provocation but of a deep mental sickness that pervades the Indian male psyche.

The following table is only a representation of some of the rapes in the past two decades that have had minors as victims. Some of these are not very well known, others are prominent but may have been forgotten over the years. It’s not necessary to say any more, I think the list is a perfect mirror for the twisted society we live in today.

AN ENDLESS TALE OF HORROR AND MISERY : WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

 

August 26, 1978 Two siblings, Geeta and Sanjay Chopra kidnapped for ransom by Billa and Ranga; subsequently Geeta was raped and both children were murdered; both culprits arrested a few months later and hanged in 1982
Jan 1996 16-year-old abducted and sexually assaulted by 45 men for 42 days in Suryanelli village in Kerala; Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien among accused; 35 accused acquitted by Kerala High Court in 2005; case re-opened  by Supreme Court in January 2013
December 13, 2012 16-year-old gang-raped by 17 (8 of whom are minor) in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya
February 8, 2013 11 year old gang-raped by 5 men in Sikar, Rajasthan; suffers from `complete perineal tear’ and underwent 7 major surgeries to reconstruct private parts; still more surgery needed
March 5, 2013 3 minor sisters abducted, gang-raped and murdered in Bhandara district of Maharashtra
March 15,2013 13-year-old abducted and gang-raped by 8 men in Loni (outer Delhi), 4 of whom were known to her; 3 arrested; family could not get police to file a case and approached local court;  case filed only on orders of local court

 

March 27, 2013 12-year-old gang raped by five men in Sakaldiha, in UP’s Chandauli district; tehsil office set afire when police refused to register case
April 8, 2013 10-year-old rape victim pushed into police lock-up in Bulandshahar; family harassed and attacked by accused who still roams free
April 12, 2013 16-year-old gang-raped by 2 in Bijnor; police refuses to register complaint and victim beaten up by lady constable at Afzalgarh police station
April 15, 2013 5-year-old gang-raped in East Delhi and left in locked room, undergoing treatment at AIIMS, both culprits arrested
April 20, 2013 15-year-old gang-raped by 4 men in Bansdeeh area of Ballia district, all 4 arrested
April 21, 2013 9-year-old gang-raped and found with her throat slit in a tea garden in Assam’s Cachar district.
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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 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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