This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Truth Bomb: In India, Violence Against Women Continues While We Hail ‘Bharat Mata’

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Pinjra Tod

pinjra tod poster
Image posted by Pinjra Tod on Facebook

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” – Virginia Woolf

An Adivasi school teacher and human rights activist, Soni Sori was brutally attacked by a group of men last Sunday, her face blackened with a black corrosive chemical. Soni now lies in a hospital in Delhi, with burn injuries on her face, but amazingly relentless and fearless about continuing her struggle against the atrocities perpetrated by the Indian state and multi-national corporations against her people, the Adivasis of Bastar and Chattisgarh and their lands, rivers, and forests.

In 2011, Soni had been arrested on charges of being a ‘Maoist’ by the Chhattisgarh police and labelled an ‘anti-national’ under a host of cases. While in custody, Soni was subjected to brutal torture and assault. In a powerful letter addressed to the nation from jail, she had enquired in anger and desperation, “…by giving me current, by stripping me naked, or by brutally assaulting me – inserting stones in my rectum – will the problem of Naxalism end? Why so many atrocities on women? I want to know from all countrymen.” The officer who led the torture on her, Ankit Garg, was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry award in 2012 for his ‘valour’, ‘courage’ and ‘self-sacrifice’ in service of the ‘nation’, in service of ‘Bharat Mata’.

Soni Sori’s case is not an ‘exception’ or an ‘aberration’. Kawasi Hidme, an Adivasi from Bastar, once again charged as a ‘Naxal’, was repeatedly tortured and abused in custody, sent from one jail to another, after the policemen in a station had ‘satisfied’ themselves ‘enough’. This continued for seven years, as the ‘valiant’ actions of the protectors of the ‘nation’ led to Kawasi’s body ejecting her uterus one day. Bleeding profusely in unbearable pain, she pushed it back the first time, and attempted to cut it off with a blade borrowed from another inmate the next time. Kawasi’s story came to light when Soni met her during her own time in jail.

Hundreds of Sonis and Hidmes languish in prisons across the country. The women of Kunan Poshpora, who were allegedly raped with impunity by soldiers of the Fourth Raj Rifles, the most senior rifle regiment of the Indian Army, more than 25 years back still await justice from the courts of law. The powerful protest of the Manipuri women who stripped naked defying the indefinite curfew imposed in Imphal, screaming “Indian Army rape us, kill us, take our flesh” after the rape and heinous murder of Thangjam Manorama, continues to disrupt our national pride from the ‘margins’ of this nation. The thousands of women who were raped during the Partition, scream from the past, about the violence on women’s bodies that constitutes the very moment of inception of India as an ‘independent’ nation. This violence has been enacted over and over again in numerous moments across the history of this post-colonial nation, be it Emergency, the 1984 riots, the Godhra killings, the Gujarat riots, Operation Green Hunt, Kandhamal and Muzzafarnagar riots.

In a context of frenzy where everyone, from the right to the left, joins a race to assert who is the ‘true nationalist’ of them all, Soni’s blackened face, Manorama’s bullet-ridden dead body, Kawasi’s ejected uterus, begs us to ask the question: can the nation, any nation really ever belong to women? What is this nation built and held together by? The rape and torture of women? Does the control, surveillance and violence on women’s lives, bodies and desires underlie the very core of what comes to constitute nationalism and the nation? Are masculine and patriarchal notions inherent to the imagination and construction of the nation? We have heard a lot about the contradiction that plays out when the Sanghi brigade relentlessly threatens ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ with sexual abuse alongside exaltations to ‘Bharat Mata’. However, a more crucial question that we need ask is: Why is India a mother, why is Bharat a Mata, why? Why this engendering of the nation? Does the imagery of the nation entrap women into pinjras where we are reduced to biological reproducers of its members (‘sons’); limited to ‘mothers’/’wives’/’sisters’ in need of protection; contained into cultural signifiers who are the markers and reproducers of cultural boundaries/differences; idolised into figures whose bravery is realised through self-sacrifice/erasure? In this gendered construction of the nation, the lives and experiences of Dalit, Adivasi and working class women are ‘invisibalised’, frowned upon and even criminalised. As we critique the nationalist project of Hindutva, we need to interrogate if there can really be a truly inclusive nationalism or if the nation functions on creating an excluded ‘other’ vis-a-vis whom difference is established?

The violence of the nation on women does not lie only in so-called ‘exceptional’ incidents, it is enacted in the ‘every day’, in the ‘mundane’, most often in our most intimate spaces and relations, in very insidious ways, beginning from our families and continuing to universities, workplaces and the society. The burden of the nation is a daily reality for every woman, manifesting in diverse forms in the numerous regulations and restrictions that bind and cage her, in the policing of her autonomy and freedom that she has to negotiate and resist, and even internalise, every day. How many times have our families told us that we have been corrupted by ‘Western’ ideals when we have argued with them for our most basic rights, be it the right to venture out at night or the right to study/work as a woman or the right to love the one we desire (the list is endless)? When the Justice Verma Committee set up after the Jyoti Singh rape case had recommended criminalising marital rape, a parliamentary standing committee, headed by Venkaiah Naidu, dismissed the recommendation, claiming that if marital rape is brought under law, the very edifice of the great Indian family system will come crumbling down. Basically, what this asserts is that marital rape is a necessity for the ‘Indian’ family and the institution of marriage to survive. We have all heard of the horror tales of shaming and humiliation from women who have approached the courts seeking justice against sexual violence, as they were tried and interrogated for not adhering to the ideal of what marks the ‘good’ Indian woman.

Haryana CM’s ex-OSD, Jawahar Yadav’s statement, “For the girls who are protesting in JNU, I only have one thing to say that prostitutes who sell their body are better than them because they at least, don’t sell their country,” leads us directly into the patriarchy and Brahmanism that lie at the very heart of nationalism, trapping us into binaries of the ‘good’ vs the ‘bad’ woman, of the ‘anti-national/Maoist’ vs nationalist woman, the respectable woman vs the women on the streets, the good student vs the ‘ungrateful daughter’.

A woman who is a sex-worker whose labour disrupts the premises of Brahminical morality and family ‘values’, is to be shamed. An autonomous woman who thinks, who questions, who resists, who fights is a grave ‘national threat’ to this nation, especially so if you are an Adivasi or a Dalit or a Muslim or a working class woman who is speaking aloud. Such women defy the masculine and patriarchal script of nationalism produced by upper-caste men (dating back to the early nineteenth century!), that has been premised on silencing of women’s voices and experiences and entrapping them in a swirl of pinjras of domesticity and alienation.

Your borders and boundaries will not stop the international solidarity and collectivisation of women, our imaginations dance wild like stardust, like the magic spells of witches.

Pinjra Tod will be organising rallies in different universities to submit their demands to university administrations. In Delhi University, the rally will start on 8th March at 12pm at Arts Faculty, North Campus.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Drishti Agrawal

By Azaz Ahmad

By Tuba Afreen

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below