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The Selective Amnesia Of ‘India’s Daughter’ – What The Film Conveniently Ignores!

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By Shivani Nag:

I finally got around to watch the much talked about documentary ‘India’s Daughter‘, and have been mighty troubled since. A few days back, a video had gone viral on social media – the video had a stand up woman comedian taking dig at victim blaming and rape culture in our republic. Soon after, there were blogs, and comments, of angry men arguing that only some men rape and yet all men get needlessly vilified. Their argument was ‘all men are not rapists‘. What they missed was that all men may not be rapists, but the blatant misogyny at home and at workplaces (which may not always result in rape) nonetheless forces most women to live their lives as lesser citizens, having to choose between safety or freedom! The problem is not just rape, but the culture that makes rapes possible; a culture that forces women to live in fear of being raped, a culture that often enough legitimises the use of rape as a tool of showing women ‘their places‘ be it at home or on the road at night, a culture that refuses to grant women rights on their own bodies so much so that rape by husbands is not even considered rape, a culture that forces women’s bodies to become a repository of family, community, and even the nation’s honour so much so that while all of them try to keep women indoors to ‘protect their honour’, the ‘enemy’ outside remains determined to ‘rob’ it by dishonouring the body that carries all the honour. Leslee Udwin’s movie, unfortunately, fails to challenge any of these.

India's Daughter

Seeking to create a connect with the victim and disconnect with the perpetrator cannot be an effective tool for encouraging introspection of mindsets.

The documentary rests on the use of a tool that movies often rely on while trying to create an emotive impact. Most movies often make us identify with the protagonist, and create an emotional-intellectual distance between the audience and the villain. We identify and we ‘otherize’. We associate with the aspirations and qualities of the protagonist and dissociate with the actions and ideas of the villain – the terrain is black and white.

While talking to a friend (Ashis Roy) quite a few years back, when the Nithari case had just come to light, I remember that he was working on a write up on a psychoanalytic understanding of the case and in the course of discussing his analysis, we had begun questioning as to why did Surender Kohli fascinate us more than Pander. Was it because it was easier to ‘other’ him as not belonging to ‘us’ – brutal, beastly, monstrous? No, it isn’t about humanizing the perpetrator to evoke sympathy for them, but about humanizing the perpetrator so that it becomes easy for us to realize that in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, we are sometimes not all that different from them. If we indeed want the mindsets to change, the challenge is to make people realize that these mindsets do not rest in the heads of some uncivilized beasts who, in the understanding of Sheila Dikshit, have grown up witnessing violence, and in the understanding of some others, have been denied an education. The challenge, as Javed Akhtar articulated in his speech in Rajya Sabha yesterday, is to force us to recognize that on most occasions we are not different in terms of our thinking, no matter how many educational degrees we acquire, or how sanitized our upbringing is (in terms of perhaps not having witnessed brute violence at homes).

So, how does Udwin respond to this challenge? On the basis of the trailers, one might be led into thinking that by getting Mukesh to talk about what was in his head, the documentary would perhaps make a whole lot of us uncomfortable when we find that we too have similar thoughts. But for that to happen, it was important to enable the audience to see the similarities between the convict’s mindset, and of course our own. The similarities could have been established by focusing less on the virtues of the victim or the extremely impoverished conditions of most of the convicts. However, what the movie (I am finding it difficult to use the word ‘documentary’ here) attempts is

1) To try and depict victim blaming as an act specific to the rapist or his legal defenders, and

2) To create an outrage over victim blaming not because victim blaming per say is problematic, but through building a narrative of the victim as one who did not deserve blaming because she had ‘proved’ herself to be the normative ‘good girl’.

Is victim blaming an act that only a rapist or his lawyers indulge in?

Let us begin with the first point. Following most incidents of rape, the statements of victim blaming that we get to hear are not from the rapists, but from their legal and other defenders – from our lawmakers, our police, and from the various ‘well wishers’ of mothers, sisters and daughters, determined to protect their dignity at any cost. Most of these statements are presented to us as being well meaning, and with an intention to prevent rape. In the movie, however, only a rape convict and his sensationalist lawyer are shown as mouthing these statements in their most crude form. The convict at one place says – “Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good”. When the convict says it in this form, and the convict alone is heard as saying it, does it allow us to relate to it to the famous “girls should not be adventurous” statement of Sheila Dikshit, who by the way in the same movie is instead shown as one trying to provide an insight into the understanding of a rapist! A woman who herself advised women to not be out during the night is shown as one having a profound understanding of how men who grow up witnessing violence and are denied education end up becoming rapists. Leslee Udwin interviews Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi at the time this incident happened, not with an intention to ask her uncomfortable questions about her own questionable statements and brutal actions on the protesters, but as an informed member of the civil society who can help us understand the issue better! Thus, only a rapist has a mind of a rapist, and the rest of us are of course ‘civilized’, ‘well raised’ and ‘well educated’ individuals whose only reaction can be of an outrage and never of introspection.

How can introspection be encouraged when a divide is created between how Mukesh thinks and how Sheila Dikshit thinks, and where the audience have the easy option to identify with the latter, whose uncomfortable articulations have been cleverly ‘unselected’! There is no attempt in the movie to also show excerpts from the infamous statements of Abhijit Mukherjees, Mohan Bhagwats, Asarams, Adityanaths, Mamta Banerjees and Tapas Pals and create links between the mind of rapists and the ‘rape speech‘ that non rapists also often indulge in. Instead, the impoverished backgrounds of the convicts are brought into focus every now and then to create a comfortable distance between them and the audience of the film. Leslee Udwin’s admiration for the civilized and disdain for the non-civilized is evidenced not only in the movie but also in her subsequent blog on the NDTV website where she appeals to the civilized in us to come out in her support. Unfortunately, in doing so, she only tries to undo a core component of the women’s movement which is that rape and rape culture are deep seated parts of our civilized worlds and that most women encounter abuse and assaults not by the uncivilized demons outside, but the civilized men in their homes or work places. She conveniently forgets that the culture of ‘silence’ around incidents of rape is more a construction of the ‘civilized world’.

How exactly do we expect an insight into the mind of a rapist to help us?

As a student of Psychology, I have had a considerable exposure to researches examining the minds of rapists, serial killers, and sociopaths. The researches aiming to understand the minds of rapists tried to provide an understanding of what provokes a rapist, what deters a rapist, and go on to suggest what the potential victims could thereby do to prevent themselves from becoming the victims. The ‘potential rapists’ were never a concern. Figuring out the minds of rapists was important, not to examine what goes into making of a rapist and thereby preventing people from becoming rapists; rather, such researches were, and still are, mailed en mass to females to suggest them on how not to become a victim. The way the movie has been made does appear to follow a similar pattern. It does not in any way invite men to engage with the mind of Mukesh, instead I can almost imagine men in middle class, upper middle class, and rich homes say to the women related to them – “See we don’t have problem with short skirts or your going out at night, but you see all men don’t think like us… Now you know how a rapist thinks… it is up to you to decide whether you want to be safe or risk rape”! In one clever stroke it does not only provide the society with more justifications for imposing restriction on women’s freedoms, but also allows most of us to distance ourselves from the mindsets the movie claims to expose. There is a difference between enabling someone to reach a realization that ‘I too sometimes think like that’ and between allowing people to justify their similar thoughts in terms of “when I restrict my wife or sister or daughter from going out at night, it is not because I think women who go out at night deserved to be raped, but because I intend to protect them from men who think like that”.

Is victim blaming more problematic in case of some victims than in the case of others?

Coming to the second point, even as the movie tries to portray itself as one against victim blaming, it still feels the need to eulogize the victim. In order to have the audience cry out in outrage over the victim blaming that the convict and his lawyers indulge in, there is a juxtaposed narrative of the victim as a nice girl, who was studious, kind to the underprivileged, very particular in her selection of movies (preferring Life of Pi as opposed to action movies) and as one who had obtained the permission of her parents before going out with a male friend. There is no denying of these as facts, but why the need to constantly reiterate them? Do we need to know that a victim is a woman of virtues before we can feel justifiably outraged by acts of victim blaming? What if there was a victim who was not so studious, who preferred action movies, who perhaps was not as sensitive to the plight of the less privileged, or who had perhaps sneaked out of her house without informing her parents to watch a movie with a boyfriend? Would it then have become difficult for Leslee Udwin to make us feel angered at the statements of Mukesh and his lawyers? Is the purpose of the movie to make us feel angry with just Mukesh and his accomplices for having committed this particular act of brutality against a victim whom we can find no faults with, or to make us feel angry with misogyny that breeds rape culture in general?

Two of the core issues raised during the December 16 movement were

1) Rape culture was an outcome not merely of the acts of rapists but of all those who provide similar justifications for rape, and

2) Recognizing that all women had an unconditional right to not be raped. The movie, by failing to focus on rape speech that we encounter daily in our socio-political context, and by its determined efforts to extol the virtues of the victim, goes against the protest slogans that were raised during the movement.

Does the movie at all capture the essence of the movement it claims to have been inspired by?

Leslee Udwin, in her blog on NDTV website had written – “I came here out of love for India, and because India had led the world by example in the unprecedented protests of its courageous men and women who came out on the streets to fight for my rights as a woman”. I will not delve much into the loving India part, though to me it sounds irritatingly patronizing, but jump straight to the mention of the 16 December movement. Yes it is a movement that all of us who were, and continue to be a part of, are immensely proud of. Proud, because from exclusive demands for justice in one particular case, we saw the movement evolve and raise demand for ‘unconditional freedom for women’. We saw a shift in an understanding among a whole lot of us who were new to the women’s movement, when we learned to recognize rapes not as crimes of lust but of power, we talked not only of one victim but forced people to get used to hearing the names of Soni-Sori, Asiya, Nilofer, Manorama Devi, Meena Khalko, Tapasi Malik, women of Kunan Poshpora and Khairlanji and many others, every time ‘rape’ was mentioned we argued that justice be demanded for all, we fought to get the definition of rape broadened, in our slogans we challenged patriarchy, we demanded that we wanted azaadi not merely from rapists who are strangers, but from the dictates of the khaps and also our fathers, and brothers, and husbands, who seek to control our bodies and agency. Where is any of this in the movie barring a few glimpses of some slogans being raised and brief bytes from activists who were part of the movement? Where is the engagement with rape as a structural problem? And how does Ms. Udwin show her respect for the movement – by making the woman who let the water cannons loose on the protesters who were demanding accountability from her as one who can help us understand why rapes happen? By showing the policemen who routinely fail to file F.I.R.s in the cases of rapes, bully the victims into taking back complaints, and who lathicharged the protesters, as being most efficient in catching the culprits in record time! Forget about the larger context, where are the difficult questions pertaining to this particular case – why was there no patrolling by the police at night? Why was the bus allowed unchecked at the road, and why did it not come to the notice of the police stationed at various check posts? Why wasn’t any politician who indulged in defending rape culture brought to book? Why did Sheila Dikshit refuse to speak to the protestors? Why was the then Police Commissioner routinely allowed to get away with arguments that put onus of the safety on women? How did Ram Singh die in custody? How were such buses with suspicious track records allowed to be on roads in the first place? Where are any of these questions?

The sensitivity of the context in which the telecast is being sought.

Leslee Udwin writes – “This was an opportunity for India to continue to show the world how much has changed since this heinous crime; sadly, the FIR and the banning of the film will see India isolated in the eyes of the world.” Yes, the Justice Verma Committee Recommendations were an important outcome of the movement, but where does the movie really engage with the recommendations? There have been a few, but significant, changes in some of the laws since the movement, but at what point does the movie elaborate on those changes and tries to “educate” the masses about them? It shows none of the positives and also fails to show how patriarchy continues to assert itself through various ways. Where are the voices of women and their opinions on how their life has or has not changed? Where is the examination of structural changes in the institutions? The only trajectory that the movie does capture for the world to see is of an unrepentant culprit, and that is nothing new – here, or even in her part of the world. How exactly will violators repent if the core assumptions of patriarchy remain unchallenged? A number of activists have rightly pointed out the problem with the title of the film, which again reveals a deep disconnect with the movement. I wish to go a step further, my problem with the title is not only that it tries to force on us the exclusive identity as ‘daughters’ that we have been strongly trying to resist, but a more sinister attempt to disown the ‘sons’ who rape as demonic ‘others’ unrelated to us! The last part of the movie, where it almost appears to be upholding the sentiment that the juvenile offender got away with very little sentencing, and repeatedly focuses on slogans demanding hanging of the rapists, only confirms this attempt. Hang them because they are not us! While Mukesh’s own statement that death penalty will be more harmful for the future victims is pertinent, juxtaposing it with cries of ‘hang the rapist’ reduces the significance of this argument by positing it as a convict’s reactionary threat. A more nuanced engagement with this particular statement, by involving women’s rights activists, would have been more helpful.

Activists like Kavita Krishnan and Vrinda Grover have already directed our attention at the legal aspects and repercussions of screening the movie now when the appeal of the convict is about to come for hearing in the Supreme Court. Though ban is not what any of us seek, my last question to Ms. Udwin is that just as she implores us to “see the film and then come to a conclusion”, why such resistance to our pleas – that wait for the judicial process to be completed. We have no fear of the damage that the movie might cause to India’s image, but your ill-guided enthusiasm over your film should not be more important than a fair judicial process! Yes we understand that you spent two years away from home to make this film, but a judicial process must be allowed to continue and be completed as freely and fairly as possible!

Shivani Nag is Asst. Prof. Psychology, Ravenshaw University. She was active in the 16th December movement, and has been an activist with AISA during her student days.

You must be to comment.
  1. aditya

    i dont gve a dam abt anythng but the rapist coment and the lawyer words sure makes me burn dis counrty to d grnd becs of dese peple

  2. Christine

    Thank you so much for writing such an excellent article. You point out so many things lacking, thus far, in the discussion of this issue. Your insights are invaluable in revealing what perpetuates violence against women. While there are many deficiencies in this film, it has ignited the heated debate that must happen for society to recognize the rights of women. Your article, though, takes it so much further in the direction it needs to go.

  3. Ushasi

    The points you made Shivani in this article are really very, very valid points; and true, the movie does not focus on these crucial matters. But blaming Leslee entirely for it is not right, since she is not Indian! Staying in India for a few months, may it be for “Love for India” or whatever can no way let you completely understand India, the minds of Indians, and above all the almighty “Indian values, culture and tradition”, since we are part of some entirely unique species, aloof and secluded from the whole world! She, being an outsider, showed the courage of making such a film at least. Is there anyone among the 1.3 billion people in this damn country who has the same courage of making a movie on such a sensitive issue? That is only how these sides of the story can be covered, don’t you agree?

    1. Mikara

      I really don’t think so.

  4. Anonymous

    The fundamental fact that we all are missing out on is, once again we need Britishers to make us see the ‘social ills’ in OUR own society. The documentary, to me, came across as mere accounts of what happened on and after the 16th December gang rape. It showed the consequences of after the event took place and poorly organised police (responsible for maintenance of law and order in the society) action rather inaction in this case. Leslee Udwin purely assembled this documentary as her take on the incident (using real accounts of people associated with the case). It is clearly insulting and reflects a very poor image of the Indian Society. However, can we blame others for this? We can’t. It is our shame, both mens and womens equally.
    It’s very simple, a glass in either half full or half empty, it depends on us how we want to look at it. We can either keep criticising the documentary and ‘ban’ it or finally find the courage to open our eyes to what has been happening ever since the formation of the ‘Indian Society.’
    Everyone has a right to express and have an opinion. I have an opinion different than yours, does not mean I don’t respect your opinion or the very valuable insights you have. Tolerance – that was India needs.
    Lets tone down the aggression, get over the candle marches ONLY and work towards a concrete action that isn’t going to blow over in a few months (considering it’s India, it might just!).

    Ps – too optimistic a view for India? Yes I know. But i think it’s time for another paradigm shift. We need to change our approach altogether.

    1. anku

      A very sensible comment. Jus what I had in mind. What happened to the victim Nirbhaya is beyond words (when I mean beyond words, yes it is beyond words), now is the right time for us to think within ourselves to see where we have gone wrong as families, societies to create such filthy minds. But please realise the documentary is fuzzed, they have edited it to suit their thought. Take it with a pinch of salt.

      The case is more than a year old. If not for this documentary it would have been put on the shelf. No body in the society has any iota of remorse for what is happening (including myself) and we do not talk out loud for fear of backlash from the law enforcement.

      You know what I told at home. These culprits should be molested 100 times a day by their fellow prisoners to understand the pain their victim would have gone through mentally and physically.

      The govt is exposed and does not know how to brush this issue under the carpet. I hope for once every MLA and MP come together and demand the court to fast track this case.

  5. Sukanya Sharma

    An excellent article bringing an insight that most of the society chooses to overlook. Sharing it with every individual I know who cares about me.

  6. supriya deverkonda

    Thank you for this great analysis of the documentary. You actually spelled out the discomfort or disappointment I got so beautifully. I agree with ever bit of your opinion as I also felt that this was to create more a sensation rather to attack the issue on hand

  7. Anik

    Before writing a review one expects that you will have the minimum honesty to watch the film and if you claim that you have watched the film then I must say that you have not been honest in your textual reading.

    It appears that you subscribe to a narrative about the movement that followed 16 december. Freedom without fear emerged as a political slogan against the shrill cry of death and hanging and patriarchal protectionism. And there can be little disagreement that the slogan by becoming the mainstay of the movement took the struggle for women’s rights to a new height in India. Having said that we must also be very clear that this slogan cannot be the only narrative for all voices that want to probe into the complex psycho-social issue of rape and rape culture. And it is highly parochial if any exploration that takes a different view of the issue is branded in the manner that your review does. I want to bring the reference of two documentaries on the Holocaust in this respect. The documentary SHOAH which documented the experiences of holocaust survivors was accused of political inadequacy and sentimental presentation of Jews to hide the crimes of Israel in Palestine. Does it mean that the experience of holocaust survivors become irrelevant and relevant only for the purpose of certain political narratives?

    I am also stunned by the manner in which you conveniently overlooked the courage and the radical potential inherent in the parents who came out in front of the camera and brought their daughter’s real name into public from the shroud of euphemisms. As an activist I hope you also realize the example that this film created for other parents in a taboo ridden society like india. I would liked to point out the other problems in your reading….but probably some other time after you have watched the film a second time,

  8. Prasad

    I agree with all that u have said. But Rape happens in all countries and men of all social classes commit rape. Countries with the toughest laws on rape also still have rape cases. While all feminists or free-thinking people may condemn what I say, but I am speaking the plain logical truth. Can you point out any country which has no rapes at all? You can change the mindset of whole society and give the most wicked form of punishment to men who commit it. These actions can reduce the occurrence of rape but nothing can stop rape totally.

    In such a case, women must be educated on how to remain safe, emergency call lines and such safety measures, this will further decrease the probability of happening.

    1. Liz

      Prasad, men must be educated on why one must not rape, why rape is wrong in any circumstance and why women being ‘uneducated’ is no justification for raping.

      Also in response to your comments about ‘nothing can stop rape totally’, just because it happens, does that mean it is ok to keep doing it? Does it mean we shouldn’t bother to make efforts to stop this act of violence, because you think it can’t be stopped?

  9. Harsh Doshi

    Check out my thoughts after watching India’s Daughter. ‘Who is Nirbhaya Indeed?’ by Harsh Doshi on Fine Baked Bread.

  10. Pria

    Wait for judicial process to be completed? Hahahahahaha… You are joking right?! That movie won’t come out for the next 10years then.. Maybe take even longer. It’s shameful that these rapists are still alive, waiting for a trial in the Supreme Court and infact the juvenile rapist will be released in December this year!

  11. Amitabh Sinha

    Ms Nag,
    I appreciate the deep analysis and agree with much of it.

    Yes, the film maker did not make a particularly good or even comprehensively thought provoking movie. Sure, on many issues she missed her self proclaimed target completely. Perhaps her portrayal as well as her attitude are patronizing. Maybe even her intent was different from what it needed to be. However – and I know you’ve already said you’re against the ban – just as we allow the sick insidious mindset and expression on the rape speech, we must allow Ms Udwin her documentary, regardless of its numerous inadequacies. We must allow it – if for no other reason then for thinking spokespersons like yourself to engage with it, critique it and where necessary, repudiate it.

    Having read the rest of your article, I did find your allusion to the impending appeal and possible impact surprising. Not being a jury driven system, our judicial process is fairly well insulated and our jurists are pretty good. The screening of the film, especially since it tells nothing that constitutes a new story, is unlikely to impact the judicial process.

    I also think it unfortunate that while I’m sure your piece was intended as an unbiased critique of a documentary, it will be perceived by many as support for the government’s inexplicably immature and ham handed handling of the issue.

  12. Anup

    Coherent article in some ways but you go astray in the last paragraph. You want to wait for the judicial process to complete before screening of the movie happens. This appeal is sitting in the Supreme Court for more than a year and then it can also go right up to the President for a pardon and sit there for a long time. I hope you have heard of the old adage that “Justice delayed is justice denied”. Many have lost faith in an often toothless and time consuming (read: takes forever). The timing of the movie (as you put it) is fine, it only shows a mirror to the society that obviously doesn’t like to see it’s own ugly face.

  13. Green Lantern

    Her mother was at work, too busy searching for equality, freedom and independence.

  14. 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.

  15. Maggie Inbamuthiah

    This is the best commentary I have read so far on this subject. Spot on!

  16. Mark

    After seeing the documentary, I had the feeling that something was amiss; that the truth could have been a whole lot worse. I just couldn’t put it in words. Your article hit the bull’s-eye. Kudos, Shivani.

  17. Kriti Mishra

    Excellent Article! But banning the documentary by the Government was a poor move. It compelled more people to watch it. It seems pointless now, not to lift the ban.
    What left me feeling raw after watching said documentary was how the rapist, their families showed no remorse, no shame. The insistence of their lawyers upon shifting the blame to the victim, seems to have reinforced Mukesh’s beliefs in the rightness of his actions.
    This is not Justice.

  18. Maura

    I have to disagree with Shivani Nag’s assessment.

    (1) The systemic problems — the “blatant misogyny at home and at workplaces” that “makes rapes possible; a culture that forces women to live in fear . . ., a culture that often enough legitimises the use of rape as a tool of showing women ‘their places’ [and] . . . that refuses to grant women rights on their own bodies . . . [and] forces women’s bodies to become a repository of family, community, and even the nation’s honor . . .” come through loud and clear even to a novice of Indian society like myself.

    (2) The film is universal in its appeal. That it was made by an “outsider” is not a detriment. It is hard to have one’s own culture critiqued by those who do not live within it, but it should also be considered a gift. Seeing our society as others see it, especially its blemishes, can be painful but can bring to light problems we might have become so accustomed to that they’re never addressed.

    (3) In my opinion the best documentary films don’t include people lecturing or scolding, but allow the story to unfold via unrehearsed interviews (not just talking heads) with the people involved in the story, and this one did so with great finesse. I could see the hard work and careful decision-making that went into it, and yes of course it is pulling on the heartstrings.

    (4) I don’t think the filmmaker was trying to make the victim into an “undeserving-of-rape” “good girl,” but instead was trying to give us a sense of the smart, thoughtful, and ambitious student, friend, daughter, and “future of India” woman we would otherwise be unable to see. She’s not here to tell or edit her story. Hearing from her parents and friend was necessary to the film. (I do wish there had been more interviews with friends/fellow students, but am sure the filmmaker made many attempts, but people were too fearful of repercussions if they were interviewed on camera; maybe audio might have been captured.)

    (5) The film should shake things up in India, maybe help force the long overdue systemic change needed. And it might help other countries start to fix their systemic sexual inequities.

    (6) Things in the USA, where I live, are going in the same direction; the hard-won feminist progress we’ve made over centuries of struggle is being dismantled daily, and we need to work on that even as we fight the corporate-state-military-media cabal on many other fronts.

    1. Take your Omega 3

      As much as I agree with you. Commenting from the diaspora, I don’t really think it is loud and clear to perhaps the indirect intended audience, the average man of India. It is absolutely loud and clear to us here but I don’t entirely think it is in India. In terms of the film shaking things up in India, the Indian government is trying its best to ban this film from every site it can. There have been mainstream films made to reach the masses in India, even those were ready to be banned. I hope things will get shaken up in India but again, the dismantling we’re trying to combat by at least the corporate-state-media cabal has a major impact on India. India is on the capitalism train and wants to be, and is winning at being, more capitalist and class disparity driven than America itself.

  19. Concerned

    While I’d like to say that the film has got everyone talking about the reprehensible incident again and while it may or may not have addressed key facts or thoughts or questioned patriarchal mindsets, I’m more interested to know from Ms. Nag if she is considering or has considered an exploration of all the culprits minds? I’d be most interested to hear her story, if she has one to tell.

  20. Team BlogAdda

    Your post has been featured in this week’s Buzzing Blogosphere at BlogAdda. You can check it here –

    Thanks for a wonderful post!

  21. Take your Omega 3

    Wow, well written and insightful! Patriarchy is definitely a societal, systemic issue and cannot be simplified to one man’s heinous actions.

  22. Tarun

    This article reflects exactly why I love youthkiawaaz posts and their people. Salute ! Whenever I pick up such discussions with other people, I find a lot of denial, personal disgust but I don’t stop and succumb with the hope that the world including them really need these radical views, someday they will realize and change…………..

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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