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“She Was Seven Months Pregnant, And Her Husband Had Assaulted Her In The Market”

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By Oxfam India:

The day Bhina was brought to the Rapar police station, she was bleeding profusely. She was seven months pregnant, and her husband had assaulted her in the market. Naseem, a social worker with the support cell situated within the police station, saw Bhina and her parents entering the police station.

Oxfam Rappar 1st 2nd oct 270

The police refused to file a complaint as it did not fall under their jurisdiction, Naseem intervened. Sighting the special provision which states that a case of domestic violence can be filed in any police station, she insisted on registering Bhina’s complaint under IPC section 498(A) immediately.

Naseem then helped Bhina to get immediate medical treatment. Three months later, Bhina delivered a son and returned to the support cell with her parents to follow through with her case. Bhina’s husband still threatens her, and her parents. Community elders counseled them to compromise and send Bhina back to her marital home. Bhina’s parents however have ‘closed their doors’ to all such people. Softly but assertively, Bhina’s mother Jamaniben says, “We have told them clearly not to tell us what we should do with our daughter. We will not send our daughter to be killed. Where were they when my daughter was being brutally beaten up in the middle of the road? No one even helped us to take her to the hospital. We don’t care even if they throw us out of the community”.

Bhina’s son, Vijay, is now two years old and Bhina says he is quite a brat. She is now learning to stitch and also helps her parents in selling fruits. With a twinkle in her eyes Bhina states, “I now have so many experienced ‘ben’( sisters) to guide me. I trust them and feel there is someone who will stand by me in any situation”.

Police station based support cells are based on the premise that the police are often the first point of contact for women in distress. Consequently, the victimized woman’s trust of the justice system as a whole can be significantly influenced by the response she gets at the police station. If at this point, she fails to get empathetic support, then it is likely that she may never stand up against the violence she faces at home.

Dr. Ila Pathak, a senior women’s rights activist from Gujarat says, “Most often, the concerned police stations refuse to register the complaint of a woman alleging domestic abuse, asking her to return home or persuading the couple to compromise. This can prove fatal. We believe that most women commit suicide only after they fail to get justice. Police have their own reasons for doing so. Often a woman files an FIR in a fit of rage, or she is inconsistent in her stance. Once her husband speaks a few loving words to her, she wants to withdraw her complaint. This makes it difficult for the police to file a complaint as once the FIR is lodged it cannot be withdrawn. But the police don’t realize that it’s natural for a battered woman, who is scared, anxious and lonely, to behave in such a manner. This is something we understand. The support cell on one hand helps the police by calming the woman and helping her think through her situation. On the other, it helps the abused woman understand her rights, the options she has and how she can get legal help. So the support cells bridge the gap between the two”.

Police station based support cells are spaces where women can feel comfortable and discuss their problems openly. Most of them have been given space within the police stations or work from premises close to police stations. Currently, such centers have been institutionalized in the states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Haryana in collaboration with the Police departments. “It helps to have a support cell within the premises of a police station as police can immediately refer the case for counseling to us. For a woman in distress, it is not fair to make her run from pillar to post. Here we can immediately speak to her, and in the cases requiring police action can be referred straight to the police,” says Surgaben, a village leader at AWAG.

In Gujarat, there are six support centers in six districts facilitated by Oxfam India and its partners Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG), Area Networking and development initiatives (ANANDI) and Saurashtra Kutcch Network against Violence Against Women (SKVAW). While the support cells in Kutch (at Rapar), Patan and Banaskantha (at Disa) are run by AWAG, the one in Panchamahal (at Godhara) is facilitated by ANANDI and that in Rajkot by SKVAW.

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  1. Babar

    According to an online survey conducted by Save Family Foundation and My Nation Foundation in April 2005 and March 2006, it was shockingly found out that, of 100,000 men who took the survey 98% of them faced severe domestic violence at the hands of their wives and in-laws in the form of verbal, physical, emotional, mental and financial abuse. Another shocking revelation was made by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which stated that the number of suicides in the country has increased by 40% during the decade 1996 — 2006. A whopping 26.1 % of the total number of suicides is attributed to domestic violence.

    Source: Domestic Violence: Not Just A Women’s Issue, Men Suffer Too

  2. Babar

    The biggest perpetrators of violence against women are women themselves, be it in the from of mothers-in-law with their psychological abuse, grandmothers with their taunts at the birth of a girl, sisters-in-law with their family politics, daughters-in-law with their family breaking schemes, and wives with their physical and verbal abuse, threats and intimidation. Women abuse men all the time, but men do not report it or tell anyone because it is embarrassing to do so. Violence against men at the hands of women, both physical and psychological, is highly underreported. With gender biased laws of 498A, DV, Rape, 125 CRPC, is it any surprise that a man in India commits suicide every 6 minutes.

    1. TheSeeker

      I completely agree with you, but how about giving solutions instead of complaints?

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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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