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Of Bloodless Brutality: Here’s What Makes Chemical Weapons One Of The Biggest Challenges Faced By Mankind

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By Rajaram Suresh:

Almost 70 years on, Hiroshima and Nagasaki still stand testimony to the zeniths of brutality that mankind has sustained due to war. The horrors of nuclear bombing are fading into the background, but for all the wrong reasons. Newer and more ‘effective’ methods of torture and destruction have evolved along with mankind and loom large over the earth, hanging like a dagger above every civilian’s neck. Chemical and biological warfare have become the norm of the day, leading to bloodless incisions on the human populace. All this while, the general fear was largely attributed to just the very action of these weapons, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, for handling their disposal is much trickier than restricting their very action.

chemical weapons

A Chemical Weapon is defined as anything that is filled with chemicals, and is capable of inflicting mass destruction to human life. Some examples are Phosgene, Lewisite and Nitrogen Mustard. There are also nerve, blood and choking agents like Sarin, Hydrogen cyanide, and Diphosgene respectively, which are targeted at different systems of the body, bringing instant death to its subjects. Under the Chemical Weapons Conventions, brought to action in 1993 was a legally binding world-wide ban on its production, stockpiling and use. Despite the ban, large arsenals of chemical weaponry continue to exist. Though they are usually only a precaution against an aggressor, their very existence is disturbing and threatening to the environment and mankind.

Chemical weaponry is one of the more recent additions to the list of ‘easier’ ways to settle disputes. The bloodless brutality reached new heights when a gas attack outside Damascus claimed the lives of hundreds of children and adults alike on August 21, 2013. Children’s bodies stacked outside hospitals and on the streets brought tears to many eyes. There was suggestive evidence that allegedly tied the attack down to the Syrian government, following which the Syrian president Bashar Al- Assad agreed to give up the chemical weapons to any country that is willing to pay for them. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t met with an enthusiastic response, primarily because of their disposal hazards. Earlier, the chemical weapons used to be destroyed in open fields and in unpopulated stretches of land, which severely threatened the environmental balance. Such blatant exposure to environment while disposal, albeit currently banned, continues to be prevalent in some areas.

The estimated cost of disposal of chemical stockpile of Syria exceeds $1 billion and the proceedings would take at least a year to kick-start. The fact that robots are being deployed to dismantle chemical weapons in USA suggests how dangerous chemical waste could prove to be. Disposal of chemical weapons in USA is expected to cost the country $35 billion and estimated to last till 2023, even though the Congress commissioned it about 40 years ago. The thought of estimating the stockpile of chemical weaponry in each country is very disturbing indeed. We currently stare down at a ‘Catch-22’ situation, where moving to either side of the line requires some very bitter decisions to be taken. While governments should do anything possible in their ambit to avoid chemical warfare, the disposal of the weapons seems to be a bigger challenge and issue than preventing the war itself.

While there are sections of mankind worrying about wildlife conservation and global warming, heads must turn towards this blatant threat to humankind, right out in the open, claiming thousands of lives in spasmodic bursts that rattle us violently. Every government, at some level, must have an underlying trust towards its counterparts regarding the use of chemical weapons. That there are neutral organizations like the UN which deal severely with regard to breach of such protocols only reinforces this fact. Once we are past the roadblock of turning in of chemical weaponry, the disposal needs to be planned at the earliest and in strict accordance with the guidelines that are already in place. Ironically, the very many ways to annihilate mankind from the face of this planet were devised by none other than us. Atrocities committed by these weapons can never be fully set right. The least we can do at this point is to mar any impeding threat to the environment and mankind through these weapons. The secret lies in taking one step at a time, and set out to decommission them, and most importantly, do so, safely.

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  1. Raj

    But ask why countries are after such NCB weapons? One of the reasons is that they are threatened by big bully USA. When international law is nought, then all countries will aspire to have such weapons to prevent getting beaten up by USA

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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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