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7 Unheard Testimonies Of Women Across India On Rape Cases That Did Not Make Headlines

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By Kayonaaz Kalyanwala:

A year ago tens of thousands came out in protest on the streets in India. Angry, hurt and exhausted that it had happened again, another girl had lost her life to a sexual assault of the most brutal kind. The collective Indian memory remembers her as Nirbhaya, the fearless one–perhaps for the legacy she left behind.

In many ways it was a turning point for India’s battle with violence against women. It was millions of citizens saying that enough was enough. That this HAS to stop. But how? The numbers of cases of sexual assaults only seem to increase. Each day the news brings chilling reminders, and we consume it. Some seething with rage, some passively, because it hurts too much to pay attention.

It wasn’t the first rape nor will it be the last one that India will see. Statistics indicate that in India a woman is raped every 22 minutes. The conviction rate for rape stands at an abysmal 25%. Add to that the knowledge that most cases that do make it to the headlines come from urban areas and rarely do they touch upon the complex social hierarchies that govern the mentalities that justify rape. Stories of women from the most marginalized communities, Dalits, rural women and tribals, remain unheard.

The anger has diffused but not disappeared. We–women, men, feminists, activists and politicians– continue to ask questions and seek answers as to how we can end rape. The reality looks bleak. But the future is hopeful, if only because women across India are beginning to be heard; their desires to govern their own lives are being acknowledged. Everywhere there are thousands of Nirbhaya’s rising. These are some of their stories.

“Sexual violence is rampant because you think you can get away with it and that I will be too ashamed to report it. If I do speak up you think you can shut me up.”


(The MLA in this video was caught and then let off. The survivor is still waiting for justice and has now lost the support of her family)

“Intimidating me and family is a common tactic to ensure that I will not tell anyone. If I am a Dalit the intimidation is severe and will extend to my whole community.”

“Nirbhaya’s attackers were tried and convicted because of the public outrage. Let’s not forget, this was the only conviction of the 706 cases reported in Delhi in that year. Even when I, and my family, gather enough courage to file a report, the police will often refuse to register the offense.”

“I often worry about my safety and the patriarchal rule is quick to clamp down on my mobility as a protective measure.”

“Often I am told that I was assaulted because of the way I carry myself. The way I walk, the way I talk. Often I am told that ‘I asked for it’. How do you explain when a 7 year old is preyed on? Did she ‘ask for it’?”

(Content may be disturbing)

“Why am I told that to be raped is to lose my dignity? Why is it that I am the one to lose face after being raped? Why is it that no rapist is ever consumed by the shame of his act?”

“When I threaten the male ego, if I resist, if I have an independent mind, then your manhood wants to teach me a lesson. Rape is another weapon in your armoury to wage your patriarchal war.”

“Rape will not stop until you stop thinking of my body as an object. It will not stop until you stop telling me what I should do and what I should think. It will not stop until you stop transacting me for a dowry. It will not stop until you think I should cook and clean for you just because you have married me. It will not stop until you stop making a list of do’s and don’ts for me. It will not stop until you consider me your equal. And equal not just notionally but equal in rights, in opportunities, in inheritance, in property and everything else you have kept as your privilege.”

“I am Nirbhaya. I know no fear. And I will stop you from stopping me to live my life the way I want.

You must be to comment.
  1. nidhi tripathi

    this was really worth reading n listening. thanku

  2. An egalitarian man.

    The fact that we don’t even know the real name of “Nirbhaya” proves that we as a society has not reached a place where a rape victim can come forward to report rape without fear of loss of honour or risk of being outcast in society. “Nirbhaya” passed away. She remains a symbol of the cruel violations and violence she suffered. “Nirbhaya” is also a symbol for the many victims of sexual abuse in our country. So, why is her name still kept private? I can’t make sense of this.

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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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