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India’s Daughter: Why We Must Get To Hear The Rapist’s Views

More from Karthik Shankar

By Karthik Shankar:

It’s the death of free speech alright. When the government banned British filmmaker Leslee Udwin’s documentary on the Nirbhaya case, it was made very clear where we stand on women’s rights in this country, over two years after that horrific incident.

documentary

Udwin’s documentary India’s Daughter is making waves because of an interview with one of the rapists Mukesh Singh who aired his horribly regressive views by claiming that ‘women are more responsible for rape than men’ and that women should just quietly submit to rape. That the clip sparked outrage is not surprising. What is baffling is towards whom the ire is directed. It’s not entirely towards Mukesh Singh or his lawyers, one of whom stood by his earlier comments that he would burn alive a sister or daughter who engaged in pre-marital sex, but towards Udwin herself. Our crusader for truth (when it suits him), Arnab Goswami called the documentary a ‘desperate attempt to get TRPs’ – no doubt, motivated by the fact that rival NDTV was going to be airing the documentary.

Even in the parliament, despite support by Javed Akhtar and Anu Aga, most ministers have denounced the documentary. Venkaiah Naidu made it a matter of national pride rather than a deeply unsettling indictment of our attitudes towards women. “We can ban the film in India. But this is an international conspiracy to defame India. We will see how the film can be stopped abroad too.” Rajnath Singh is directing his energies towards finding out how Udwin was granted access to Singh in Tihar jail . The Delhi Police registered a case under Section 509 (outraging the modesty of women) and Section 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of trust) of the Indian Penal code. Udwin even flew out of the country to prevent getting arrested. This entire chain of events is Kafkaesque. It’s akin to burying one’s head in the sand and blaming the whistleblower rather than the people who are scamming the system.

Many people have pushed back against the idea to let the rapist air his views saying it’s an insult to Nirbhaya. What is wrong however with broadcasting Singh’s views? It’s extremely clear that Udwin, who spent two years in India interviewing a lot of different people, including prominent women lawyers and politicians, is not taking the side of the rapist. Moreover, I think it’s crucial to understand the mindset of a rapist. In the media hoopla that followed the brutal rape, the key accused were described as sub-humans and ‘othered’. However, the people who committed the crime don’t hold views that are diametrically opposed to the rest of our society. They are very much a product of our misogynistic culture and they are parroting ideas that emanate out of a society that values men more than women. Humanising the killers is crucial to understanding how our culture breeds such men. Our very own saffron ideologues spout views that could have come out of Singh’s mouth

Singh’s views also beg the question whether our criminal justice system reforms individuals. If Singh can still express these views after having paid for it with his freedom, then doesn’t it indicate that incarcerating criminals isn’t enough? Rehabilitation is an important part of every prison system and the very fact that Singh still holds the same views, despite being charged for the crimes and awaiting execution, is our collective failing. It’s also interesting to note that most of the outrage about broadcasting Singh’s views has come from people who occupy the country’s political and economic elite. Most of the educated middle-class live in hermetically sealed bubbles and convince ourselves that things in this country have changed for women. The documentary’s few clips make it clear that in terms of the social, political and cultural environment surrounding women in our country, little has changed.

Why does the government assume that Indian viewers are infantile or not capable of processing the complex discourse that accompanies such a documentary? Nirbhaya’s parents themselves want it to air, which they made clear in an NDTV discussion where they appeared along with Udwin. How can the government seek an injunction based on a claim of ‘outrage of modesty’ when the parents of the murdered girl themselves don’t view it that way?

BBC sensing the furore building around the documentary already screened it in the UK last night. By not allowing the documentary to screen here in India and having a conversation about what it reveals about the deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes in our society, we are doing Nirbhaya a disservice. Udwin herself made an astute statement when she announced the movie’s release. “These rapists are not the disease, they are the symptoms. Gender inequality is the disease, and gender equality is the solution. The only one.

The hashtag #NirbahayaInsulted has been trending on Twitter with most tweets expressing outrage about Singh’s views and the documentary. Nirbhaya has been insulted alright, not by the British filmmaker but by all of us who prefer not to engage with the difficult truth that as a country we have failed our women.

You must be to comment.
  1. ABs

    The Govt. is right in banning the documentary. The Documentary is nothing more than a disgusting, vile, distasteful attempt at pleasing the West with the idea that India is a third world dump, when it is not so. The real problem here is the fact that the people who think that nothing has changed in India, are a group of whiners, who can only complain instead of pulling up their pants, and actually doing something. Here are a few starters,

    1. Increase the strength of the Police Force.

    There are immense gaps in the Police Force which need to be filled, and if the intake of Constables, and IPS officers is increased, there will be a dramatic reduction in Crimes, primarily due to the fact that there will be more Police around.

    2. Treat Boys and Girls equally in Schools:

    In schools, it is often the boys who are scolded, even beaten, while the girls are allowed to be lax. This should not be encouraged. There must be equal standards of discipline for both boys and girls.

    3. Increase the Defense Reservation for Women, and allow them Combat roles.

    As of now, Women are only allowed to work in Support and Logistics in the Army. They should be allowed to take part in Combat Operations as well.

    4. There should be a Uniform Civil Code which ensures that there is no religiously motivated Discrimination towards Women, especially when it comes to legal age of marriage. Just because a certain religious book states that a girl is ready to marry at the onset of Menstruation, doesn’t mean that she should be allowed to. The age bar of marriage for women should be increased to 21, like it is done for Men.

    In response to your argument that it is our culture which is misogynistic, I beg to differ. Women’s rights are an issue around the world, and by pinning it on the Hindu religion alone, is a blatant lie. There is an equal, if not higher percentage, of Women in Islam and Christianity who get raped, and have no rights.

    “Most of the educated middle-class live in hermetically sealed bubbles and convince ourselves that things in this country have changed for women. ”

    This is another misdirected comment. Things have changed for the Middle Class, particularly for Women in the past 60 years of our Independence. Women have easier access to education, and jobs, and that, is a concrete fact, one which, despite your many spineless comments, is irrefutable.

    1. Himalay Singh

      Though all your points are good but you must know the opportunity cost involved in raising defence forces. They are only made for fighting henious wars. There exist a situation called POW’s , we know what happenned to our men how we have to forget them. And hten is our enemy professional enough to women according to vienna convention.
      Can’t men fight for equal wage equal work since the armed forces are becoming materialistic and avoiding resposibilities.
      Another thing that needs to be adressed is whether women recruitment can compete men(opportunity cost).

    2. monisha

      I beg to differ for your comment on stating things have changed in household of middle class families it is true that womens have oppurtunity for jobs but at the same time do we allow women to work or the employers who are more willing to employe a male counterpart all this does lead to our so called culture

  2. TempleTwins

    I am usually the supporter of the freedom of speech, however in this case I welcome the ban. As I know BBC is a sexist one sided feminist media, who wants to portray female victimization and demonization of masculinity. When the topic of womens attire comes, most people who argue that a womans cloth has nothing to do with rape, when you give examples such as Guwahati molestation case the accused said it was her drunken behavior and her attire which caused him to molest, such views must be ignored as every molester or rapist will only blame the victim, however when it comes to demonizing a country, then somehow a single rapist view can be allowed and important for analyzation as it sets the standard for the rest of the country.

    1. swati srivastava

      Have you seen documentary? Then how can you say that it is demonizing masculinity and favor feminist and show bad image of India. Without watching you can’t say what it contain. Just because she is a foreigner and female,you easily made perception that she must be favoring female and bad mouthing India. Why?
      A family person say that she should not go out or she is wearing short dress then he is right but a rapist says the same thing then he is trying to save himself. Why the double standard? I see all the comments on news post and you will be surprise how many agrees with the rapist point of view and says that it is his freedom of speech and he can say whatever he want.(male and female both).

    2. Monistaf

      @Swati – I will admit that I have not seen the documentary and I truly believe that freedom of speech is absolute and must always remain so but I cannot deny the fact that the documentary, from what I have heard about it, exaggerates the rape crisis in India and the rapist and his views is hardly a representation of the Indian male psyche. Look at the stats (reported cases) from around the world and you will see that the film maker should do a film on her own continent before coming to India.
      Check it out for yourself..

      http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Rape-rate
      http://www.more.com/news/india-rape-capital-world

      There are less than 10,000 rapes that resulted in a conviction in a court of law for the year 2013 in India. 10,000 rapes for a population of 530 million women and girls (Remember men cannot be legally raped in India), while 10,000 too many, is hardly a crisis. Let us stop making it one and try to prove to the world that we are the rape capital. May be these foreign journalists/film makers will realize that there is more of a crisis in their own backyard than looking for one half way around the world. Or may be we should produce and air a documentary about the rape crisis in the most feminist country on earth, Sweden, on Indian TV.

    3. swati srivastava

      I have seen the documentry and it doesn’t reflect anything you said. It simply tell the story of nirbhaya, from childhood to death, the convict version of event and why they do it. What is the main cause. How the people around them are affected. How their family is coping with it. How government fail. How people protest in delhi, how they are beaten by police. And many things surrounding the event. It never says that India is a rape country it merely shows why people do something so heinous.
      Those 10000 rapes are not only the rapes of 10000 women but destruction of 10000 family and i think it is too many.

    4. Green Lantern

      Monistaf

      Point 1: Many rapes go unreported, so we will never know how many women are raped in India.

      Point 2: Freedom of speech can never be absolute, otherwise I should be able to call you and your entire family all sorts of names without any repercussion.

    5. Green Lantern

      Swati

      India is not a ‘rape country’. India does not even feature on the top 5 countries with the highest rape.

      False cases behind Delhi’s tag of rape capital.
      http://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/false-cases-behind-delhis-tag-of-rape-capital-court-529663

    6. Monistaf

      Green Lantern

      Yes, I am aware that many crimes, including rapes go unreported, but it only makes sense to discuss based on empirical or observed data.

      We have different opinions on what freedom of speech must be. I contend that if there are restrictions on what you can and cannot say, it does not qualify as “freedom” of speech. Without absolute freedom of speech, we would all still believe that the world is flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

      Swati – I got a chance to watch the entire documentary and yes, it is everything you say it is, but it clearly evident that she is trying to project it as the fate of girls in India (India’s daughter) and expose the mentality of the male population as the ones expressed by the rapist and his defense team. We both know that neither one is true.

    7. swati srivastava

      @monistaf if we are going to make a discussion based on observed data then i think we should not compare our crime data to other countries data because many countries consider many things as crime which in India is not consider crime and in other countries the percentage of unreported crime is very low which in India is very high.
      As for documentary i never seen it telling it that it is my fate or men’s mentality in India. Where you get that. In documentary, both male and female are interviewed and I am proud that some male are standing against. It is the man who help them and took them to hospital, the friend and father of Jyoti never once blame her. I know that what lawyer and rapist say is wrong and it is really shameful that they think this way and it is their mentality which is rotten. If you can hear what wife of one of the convict say that she has faith that her husband doesn’t do anything wrong. Does this can be held for every women. In every case there is going to be victim(men/women) and a perpetrator(men/women). And if we are condemning the perpetrator doesn’t mean it is generalizing all women or all men. There are many good men but it doesn’t decrease the crime against women. What people don’t understand is 57% rape cases doesn’t mean 57% men are rapist because in many cases a single perpetrator can have many victims. It is the inefficiency of police and social stigma which let these crime go on and on.
      I wonder what if this gruesome act doesn’t happen then the silence against rape can go on for a decade and victims are held responsible for it. The perpetrator go free because it is always victim faults. I always think that every men is molester and nobody care about these thing, I got sad when in many rape cases the perpetrator got acquainted because the victim is characterless. If this act doesn’t happen i never got to know how many men are itself against it. How many men doesn’t think that i am a piece of meat or a decoration piece in home. And that what gives me courage and many more like me to stand for what is right.

    8. Monistaf

      Swati – So, I guess, you and all the feminists in India (Men and Women) have been vindicated and declare it as a victory now that this documentary has effectively demonized all Indian men. This is not very different from Emma Watson’s UN speech where she mentions that feminism has become synonymous with man-hating. I guess you must now celebrate the fact that people around the world find one more reason to discriminate (As if they did not have enough already). I am sure you have read the article on the Indian Student in Germany. If not, here is a link to it. http://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/student-denied-internship/?ref=social&type=fb&b=0

      Nobody denies that the incident from December 2012 was repulsive, despicable and tragic to say the least. To make a documentary and project it as the prevailing norm for India’s daughters and son’s is what the controversy was about. The documentary did exactly that, to the vast majority of the people outside India, including this so called professor who watched it. This is because the film maker refused to talk about the millions of men (more men than women) who took to the streets to express their outrage and protested until the law was changed, again by a majority male parliament in an attempt to deter such crimes in the future. The male judge who handed down the death sentence or the male hangman who will eventually kill the rapists. She chose, instead to focus on the views of the rapist and his defense team.

      I guess you can revel in the fact that the world hates Indian men, as much as the feminists in India do, but remember that if you have any men in your life that you care about, they are on that same list. Just so you know, this is not an isolated incident. At a major tech conference last week, one of the men was surprised how so many Indian women have escaped their fate (Of being India’s daughter) to become techies!!

    9. TempleTwins

      I have seen the documentary too, I had several issues with the portrayal of many things, especially the part the psychiatrist dude says these are ‘normal human beings’, by normalizing criminal behavior they juxtapose that with that of a normal every day guy, as rape is something which they portray as done by men to women, then he went on about a guy who remember committing 200 rapes and got away with it and saying that is the ‘state of the affairs’ (as if men are committing 200 rapes and getting away easily) and also it is a ‘mans right’ and ‘they don’t think other persons are human being’. These were problematic statements which over exaggerated a crime and mentality of ‘normal persons’.

      Then Sheila Dickshits statement about many of us are growing up to think women are less than men, with her example of a glass of milk, again wrong portrayal of male domination in households. Any house which favors boys over girls is because boys are seen as better laborers not because of any misguided patriarchal domination. That statement about ‘India is no place for a woman’ came out of nowhere, sounded very scripted.

      Then we have the beloved rapist who says the rapists would kill their victims if they make it rape as a crime with capital punishment, very scripted indeed. He might’ve said that for a couple of charas.

      in other countries the percentage of unreported crime is very low which in India is very high.
      What is the standard of finding unreported cases? Unreported cases comes from anonymous sources which can’t be verified. I am not claiming that unreported cases aren’t there but it can’t be evaluated and can only be taken as face value. Do you have any proof that unreported crimes are very low in other countries when compared to India?

    10. swati srivastava

      @temple twins, Normalizing is wrong so what you are trying to say that they are not normal human being, they are devils they have 5 hands 6 legs have large teeth and nails and they drink blood. I mean what is the definition of normal human being, a human which have every and equal body parts as the other who can eat sleep and can think for himself. They are as normal as you and me. The only difference is they grow up in inhumane condition. And what these people are saying is not wrong. A person who molest children for 40 years without getting caught, can you tell me how many times he have molested. Hypothetically he molest 2 children 4 times in a week then that by 14 years would be 240 times.
      Yes boys are better labourer thatswhy everybody wants son not daughter because one day daughter will leave and go to other home. So why anyone want an extra mouth to feed which doesn’t give them anything in return. It is a give and take arrangement of society.
      Well, it is correct that their is no measure to find out about unreported crimes but police efficiency can shed some light on it. The police in many countries are very active and have less corruption but in India police are inefficient.
      I have met like thousand girls and some of them are my close friend. Most of them are victim of molestation and in some form and another form and in most of the cases the abuser is father, brother, uncle and they never tell anyone because of social stigma.

    11. TempleTwins

      The only difference is they grow up in inhumane condition.

      Normalcy is over-rated, yet if agree that they grew up in inhumane condition then that is not normal, as not everyone is growing up in inhumane condition, similarly to commit a brutal rape, they must’ve gone through abuse of some kind, deprivation, societal indifference and even violence to some extent, that they are fine exhibiting violence unto others, that is not a normal behavior.

      Some may claim that a normal person in India may share the same views as the rapist, such as ‘girls who go roam around at night are characterless’ etc but that view is what causing rape is an over-exaggeration and projection at best. It is similar to assuming that the rapist likes parrotas so anyone who likes parrotas will rape, etc. Correlation is not same as causation, to say otherwise is being disingenuous.

      but police efficiency can shed some light on it
      Police cannot do anything about unreported cases, as you know they aren’t reported, I agree that our police department needs some reformation as they exhibit violence and crass behavior but they can’t be solely responsible for unreported cases.

      I have met like thousand girls and some of them are my close friend. Most of them are victim of molestation
      Your anecdotal evidences doesn’t prove anything, I am not claiming that there is no social stigma but that doesn’t prove that these issues are an epidemic or the state of affairs.

    12. Himalay Singh

      Have you seen it my dear freind.

    13. monisha

      I totally agree with you unknowingly its our loved ones who in form of protecting us implants an idea that its a girls fault why cant they for a change educate guys for whats and right

  3. Surbhi

    The first step to solving a problem is admitting there IS a problem. The government and the concerned officials are doing the exact opposite.
    We as a society (if we are willing to change) need to know where things went and still go wrong.
    Sadly we still have a long way to go

  4. Concerned Citizen

    The comments here, all written in very eloquent words, supporting the ban terrify me a lot more about the mindset of the people than the words of that rapist. Look beyond the whole ‘it’s shaming India’ part and WATCH the documentary. It doesn’t shame India, it shames a certain mindset that is present in our society and needs to be changed. We shall be as much responsible for the rapes as the rapists if we refuse to acknowledge the problem, even now.

  5. k

    Rise india rise . it is time to make boys feels ashamed of what they do to girls be it eve teasing or rape .instead such girls who face such acts should not be called victims but hero as they bear such atrocities. they are no less then who fight at the borders for nations freedom . these females are also fighting for freedom from a mind set . it is time for the parents of the boys to be ashamed of what monsters they give to society . Instead of being happy they should be worried about what shame or name will their boy bring to family . it is time for defenders of such cases to be ashamed of what they are doing professionally . . let us flip the coin now .

  6. Green Lantern

    Yesterday I returned home from work tired and my wife inserted her hand in my pants and started massaging, despite my pleas to stop, and when my penis become hard she took my pants off and started riding. I was in no mood to have sex, it was forced. Does that constitute as rape? What can I do to fight for my rights?

    1. swati srivastava

      Yes, It is rape and you can file PIL in court to form a law against marital rape. goodluck

  7. TheSeeker

    Watching that documentary made me burn out of hatred for those beasts. And the sad fact is that people who think like him are still large in number. But it has incited hatred that our country doesn’t deserve. Ms.Udwin should look to her own country first, where rapes are much more frequent than in India. Anyways, people should understand that one incident isn’t the standard for judging a whole nation. Think above your feelings, fellow citizens!
    As for the ban, I don’t know what to think of it.

  8. Harsh Doshi

    Check out my thoughts after watching India’s Daughter. ‘Who is Nirbhaya Indeed?’ by Harsh Doshi on Fine Baked Bread.
    https://finebakedbread.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/who-is-nirbhaya-indeed/

  9. Green Lantern

    Her mother is too busy at work. Uganda’s daughter.

    http://youtu.be/LvNERdZjXp4

    1. TempleTwins

      A stay at home mother abusing the child.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4KdRWbQQwg

  10. yadu krishnan

    Again and again the government is deciding what people should see and what people shouldnt. Still not clear who has given the authority to the govt to decide what people of the state should see and eat. Rather than accepting the mistake, the government is trying to picturise these things as part of international conspiracy. Who are you people trying to fool? The documentary gave an insight and the root cause on what causes these brutal rapes. Accept the mistakes and go forward rather than trying to hide the reality.

    1. ABs

      The Government is a democratically elected one, here in India. The Government has banned Child Pornography as well, and judging by your comment, it seems as if you have an issue with that as well. The Govt had every right to ban the documentary, and it has every right to ban beef, the consumption of which is an affront to the Hindus. This Govt was elected, and is carrying out the wishes of the people who elected it. That is how a democracy works.

  11. Harsh Doshi

    The outrage over the Nirbhaya Rape Case has not subsided. ‘An Open Letter to ML Sharma And AP Singh, Lawyers Of Nirbhaya Rapists’ by Tanvi Sonigra on Fine Baked Bread. https://finebakedbread.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/an-open-letter-to-ml-sharma-and-ap-singh-lawyers-of-nirbhaya-rapists/

  12. Good Girl

    I do think that this video was inflammatory. Cause it said India’s daughter. I am also India’s daughter only and this seems to be a pathetic act to paint Indian women being weak and spineless women who can’t solve our own problems. First of all She is a foreigner. She is not an Indian woman. I think it is an Indian women who should be making this documentary. Indian women are called spineles
    and pathetic women all over the world just because we are from India and that we cannot fight
    against sexism in this country when it is totally not true
    The truth is we must not rely on Western women to solve our problem. Western feminism does not work for us. Western women were way more privileged in history than any other race was.
    We should appreciate their efforts in India to fight sexism and International organisations have helped us a lot, no doubt. After all it was western men and women who encouraged Indian men to give us an uplifting during Independence(Yes , Even men.).

    Coming to the point. I don’t think this video demonizes male sexuality at all as said by some commentatotors. If you feel the right to rape is male sexuality then don’t blame women for
    demonising men. This video does however demonise Indian men! I can say that not all Indian
    men share even a bit of these rapist’s regressive views. I am from South India and I believe most men respect women here at least.

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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.

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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.

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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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