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In The Heart Of Darkness: Why Our Approach Towards Gender Based Violence Needs A Radical Overhaul

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By Preetam Sengupta:

Alas! We have lost our hearts — not to love, but to misogyny and bigotry, and to every other form of degraded thinking that an abjectly insecure patriarchal system keeps drilling into us day in and day out. It is, after all, this very societal conditioning that has slowly and surreptitiously taught us to ascribe the “woman” the status of the “other” sex. Goes without saying, this thin line between “sex” and “gender” is constantly subject to being blurred, redefined, and tailor-made to suit a man’s (still the defining agent of societal organisations) own selfish purpose. It seems a call for the permanent revolution of the mind is the need of the hour! What is wrong with us — men and women alike? If some men are strutting around shifting the onus of their heinous acts on women, few women in turn, are paying lip-service to this masochistic tyranny, thereby helping the perpetuation of a system gone rancid.

Domestic violence

Yet, it is not like women alone are falling prey to such inhuman manoeuvres. Young boys and girls are no exception to the rule either. Unfortunately enough, sexual violence, it appears, has become the “rule” rather than the aberration of our times. Starting from tendering justifications for assaults against women by drawing attention to how “provocatively” a certain girl has dressed to pointing out her indiscretionary emulation of the “Western culture” to showing the audacity of stepping outside one’s demarcated threshold at odd hours unchaperoned by the men-folk, we men have said it all — cried it hoarse.

If a man condemns this “rape culture”, he is sought to be dismissed as “just another gay”, while women professing the same have the brunt of a “slut” to bear. What’s with this fetish for compartmentalising sexuality, I say? Besides, how and when does this irresistible drive for callous generalisation of people, their habits, their beliefs, their sexualities, and their identities see sense? Why and how is it difficult to be gender-sensitive? We had long heard of the dictum — “equality for equals”. Yet, nowhere else, more than in our rotten democracy perhaps, we have come to live under the materialisation of the saying.

If the government were a democratic arrangement, the police would be its most disappointing institution. Unabashedly undemocratic in its approach to a group of citizens peacefully protesting against the recent flurry of bestiality in every part of the country, while being well within their constitutional rights, the police deploys a force of five hundred to “take care of” a handful hundreds by means of lathi-charging, pelting tear gas and water-canons. Not to mention its proactively commendable role in working as the state’s emissary in trying to hush things up by paying “compensation” to the victim’s family. One must take special heed of the vestiges of an outdated colonial law which continues to plague the act of delivering justice in our country. Moreover, justice delayed becomes justice denied more often in the course of history than we would wish to concede.

We must condemn violence in all its forms and variegated manifestations, because violence cannot be alleviated with violence, but compassion and love. Our first impulse of anger in rape cases is always directed at the perpetrator. However, death penalty isn’t the solution to a societal malaise like rape. Of course, the perpetrators are culpable adequately but death penalty kills the mortal being alone; the humanitarian and ethical issue looming large goes unaddressed. Not to mention the fact that such a barbaric punitive measure defies both the principles of our constitution and international human rights law. Besides, solely legal responses would not suffice. The most effective approach would consist in moulding people’s thoughts to redress socio-economic inequalities, cultural mores as well as the malice of easy impunity built into our system.

Hence, it is against such a browbeaten culture of subordination that we must raise our voices together! Let a collective conscience lead us all to a common destination, irrespective of individual differences — as we rightfully demand an overhaul of the legal system through devising stricter laws, to be effected with integrity in an efficient system, while at the same time, and most importantly, each one works towards educating oneself in the doctrine of not gender difference, but gender equality. At the end of the day, it is only a matter of whether we treat our fellow human beings as human beings. Therefore, invoking Eve Ensler’s “Man Prayer”, I say:

“May I be a man.
Who creates space rather than dominates it.
Who seeks kindness over control. Who refuses the slap, the gun, the choke, the insult, the punch.
May I cherish, respect and love my mother.
May the resonance of that love translate into loving all women and living things.”

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  1. Babar

    However, death penalty isn’t the solution to a societal malaise like rape.

    A very self-righteous statement. People against the death penalty for rapists would not be making the same statements if someone in their family got raped. Should we jail rapists so that they can get out after a few years and rape some more? Rapists must be castrated and hung from trees in public.

    1. Ankur C. Roybarman

      Agreed, Babar, except for one thing. What if they ain’t really a rapist? What if you kill an innocent man? What would You say if a family member, or maybe you, were strung up for simply having annoyed a powerful, rich human being? And, though I agree that you can’t fix most rapists except by hanging ’em, there might be one or two outta a hundred who might realize how horrible and detestable what they did was? Would you truly deny them a second chance?

    2. Babar

      What if they ain’t really a rapist?

      In that case the alternative punishment would also be abhorrent.

      there might be one or two outta a hundred who might realize how horrible and detestable what they did was? Would you truly deny them a second chance?

      The one or two already knew the gravity and heinousness of their crime before committing the act.

    3. TheSeeker

      Something called empathy and justice in this world.

  2. Babar

    Why don’t we have articles and pictures of women beating men, when that is what the reality is today. Domestic violence against men is rising in India. And why are women not punished for falsely accusing men of domestic violence?

    Under the Indian judicial system, a woman can accuse a man of rape, domestic violence, or dowry harassment, with very little proof, if any, and have him imprisoned. Today, tens of thousands of innocent Indian men rot in jail for crimes they did not commit, courtesy of fabricated allegations by women.

    The draconian Indian law is being misused left, right, and center, where women have men imprisoned with false charges. From settling personal agendas to blackmailing for money, the law in India is being grossly manipulated by women. From relationships gone sour to broken promises of marriage, any reason is enough to falsely accuse men and land them behind bars. Women do so without a care in the world about the men’s reputation, future, career, family, and life.

    The Indian media does not highlight the plight of men because sympathizing with women’s causes is good for business.

  3. Templetwins

    It is, after all, this very societal conditioning that has slowly and surreptitiously taught us to ascribe the “woman” the status of the “other” sex

    It is quiet an irony you quoted Eve Ensler. When Eve Ensler said, I quote, ‘Are the vaginas in the house?’ and ‘Any vagina friendly men in the house’ in the NOW conference..she was referring whom as vaginas again?

    If a man condemns this “rape culture”, he is sought to be dismissed as “just another gay”

    Rape culture: Any woman can accuse any man of rape, his name and picture will appear in newspapers (and television if he’s famous enough or the media thinks the case is entertaining to watch) and his reputation will be forever tarnished whether he is guilty or not.

    Oh… is that not what they meant? Maybe it’s…
    Rape culture: The subjugation and control of other inmates in a prison system by use of forced sexual activity.

    Oh not that either? What about…

    Rape culture: The denial that women are capable of rape, and placing the blame on ALL men, not rapists, for every crime of rape.

    We must condemn violence in all its forms and variegated manifestations, because violence cannot be alleviated with violence, but compassion and love.

    I agree.

    Here’s my ‘woman prayer’ for all femofacists.

    May I be a woman.
    Who is grateful for all the greatness in men.
    Who seeks independence over victimhood. Who refuses hypergamy, govt aid, free drinks, affirmative actions, reservations, gynocentric policies.
    May I cherish, respect and love my father.
    May the resonance of that love translate into loving all men and living things.

  4. Babar

    Feminism is two-faced and bigoted, full of hypocrisy and lies. Look at any article talking about violence against women, and it will be devoid of the violence that is perpetrated by other women. Feminists never bring up the issue of psychological violence perpetrated by women in households, on men and women. Feminists never talk about how violent women can be, their discussions will always be devoid of female murderers, they won’t write about female pedophiles, they are not concerned about female sexual predators, and the list is endless. A woman perpetrating crime, violence, and abuse in society on other women is never a subject of discussion.

    Women perpetrate crimes against men – they are violent, abusive, misandrist, and sexist. Women also perpetrate crimes against women, from family politics to taunts and abuse, women have mastered it all. From backbiting to gossip mongering, they spread lies and deceits and break families. Grandmothers, wives, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, you name it. More than 40% of domestic violence victims are men

    Furthermore, men are unable to see how women use them. Today a husband is an ATM, driver, porter, dildo, and servant, who houses his wife, lets her drive his car, pays for her shopping, allows her unnecessary expenditure, buys her jewellery, pays at restaurants, puts food on the table, among a host of other things. Women always marry men richer than them, earning more than them, and men who are ‘well settled.’ Men always marry women who earn less than them – How many women marry men earning less than them?

  5. Monistaf

    All violence, regardless of gender of the perpetrator or the victim is simply wrong and should not be tolerated in any civilized society. The problem with articles like these is that they only call out violence against females, ignoring or just paying lip service to the vast majority of violent crimes in which the victims are men. Does the hashtag #KillAllMen ring a bell? How about #EndFathersDay? These are real hashtags that were popular and had significant participation, yet, there was very little written against them and almost no protest. Can you imagine the response and outrage to something like #RapeAllWomen? Simply bamboozling an audience with one sided articles on gender violence is not going to help the cause when real life experiences and statistics tell a different story. They only server to sadly subtract from the legitimacy and credibility of a real issue that desperately needs to be addressed.

  6. Babar

    When feminists remain silent over the incessant violence perpetrated by mothers-in-law, when they remain quiet over the discrimination by grandmothers, when they choose not to speak about the familiy politics and psychological abuse by sisters-in-law and daughters-in-law, it speaks volumes about their double standards, hypocrisy, and two-faced agenda.

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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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