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The Week That Was For Women In India: Sexist, Misogynistic And Violent

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By Abhishek Jha

Even as our Prime Minister launched the #SelfieWithDaughter campaign this week, there was no respite for women or feminists in India, the sexism erupting like a persistent boil every now and then. From sexist cartoons in leading magazines to misogynist comments by actors, from virulent diatribes on an artist to violent attacks on an RTI activist, the aam Indian had a tough time watching those striving for a more equal and just world. Women in India continued to face the heat of sexism. But their fight must go on, because all this just happened in a week.

outlook sexist cartoonOutlook’s Sexist Cartoon: In a surprising gossip article, subsequently removed, Outlook magazine described Smita Sabharwal, an IAS officer posted in Telangana and who works as a close aide of the state’s chief minister, as “eye-candy”. The magazine also published a cartoon depicting her as a model walking on a ramp while politicians stand ogling and photographing. “What really hurt is that magazine like Outlook, which is supposed to be an opinion maker…they stoop such levels of yellow journalism,” the officer told NDTV. She has sought legal action against the magazine. Outlook, meanwhile, has published an apology stating that, “the said piece was part of satire carried in the magazine in the usual course, was not intended to be derisive or derogatory, and was meant to be received in a lighter vein. That said, being conscious of sensitivities, Outlook has taken down the satirical piece entirely. Outlook expresses regret if any offence has been taken.

#SelfieWithDaughter: In another major internet fiasco, the Prime Minister’s #SelfieWithDaughter campaign, which asked parents to post pictures of themselves with their daughter, turned sour when actor Alok Nath responded to activist Kavita Krishnan’s criticism of the Prime Minister with “jail the bitch“. Those purportedly defending the Prime Minister were even more misogynistic in attacking Krishnan and even threatened her with rape.

aloknathOn the contrary I am quite pleased that the active section of Modi’s Twitter supporters, spent their time and energy displaying their deep-seated ideological tendency to be violent to women, rather than posturing as feminists with sweet #SelfieWithDaughter and photographs. After all, isn’t it true that RSS and BJP supporters have, in fact done to women what they have threatened to do to me?” Krishan later wrote in response to the vitriolic tweets.

#SelfieWithFeminist: In response to the “hollowness” of #SelfieWithDaughter, The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman launched an alternative Facebook campaign called #SelfieWithFeminist. “If YOU are against this gender based oppression; the abuse and hatred towards online users simply because they are women; this extreme and ugly tirade against their morality, appearance and sexuality only because they chose to disagree with an opinion – then YOU should support this,a post says.

“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating…

Posted by The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman on Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Beaten And Harassed For Filing An RTI: Urmi Rupa Paul, who works for a University Press, narrated this week a personal ordeal where she was harassed for filing an RTI. She was fighting to protect a wetland belonging to the University of Burdwan. On 21st June, she was asked to meet with her Ward Councillor who asked her to withdraw the RTI if she wished to continue living in the locality. Urmi and her father were beaten up by a mob with the councillor. ‘They chased us home and tried to break in while continuously making indecent gestures at us and shouting “let the girl out and let us do an ‘RTI’ of the girl”,she narrated in a frightening account of the incident.

Monica Dogra’s ‘Shiver’: Artist Monica Dogra, who is part of the Electro-rock band Shaa’ir and Func and played Shai in Dhobi Ghat, was ridiculed online for asking Rs 50 lakh to crowdfund her “high art projectShiver. While some criticised Dogra’s project for her lack of understanding in matters pertaining to the condition or struggle of the LGBT community in India, a scathing diatribe bordering on slander was written in an opinion piece on daily-O. “She sticks bindis all over her body, talks staccato into the mic with an American accent, and makes her bare midriff writhe and shift like she’s been possessed by multiple non-alcoholic spirits on stage,the daily-O piece said. Monica Dogra has now responded to the criticism in an interview.

That’s India’s selfie with women, compressed to accommodate all the viral stuff. We hope that with this selfie will come some self-reflection. Thank you!

You must be to comment.
  1. G Lantern

    This article is a joke.

  2. Anon

    The idea for this column is great. Keep it up YkA!

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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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