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Thanks To Brexit, Racism In UK Is Now Out For The World To See

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By Richa Gupta:

Probably the most talked about issue in the past couple of days is that of Brexit (expanded as British Exit from the EU). To summarise what happened, a referendum was conducted in the UK to decide whether the nation wanted to remain in the European Union or not. Long story short, Britain voted to ‘Leave’- 52% to 48%. Over 30 million people voted, giving it a highly significant turnout.

But before we delve into that, I think it is necessary that we remind ourselves of the basics of the European Union (EU), which is relevant to make my point

The EU is a politico- economic union of 28 European member states, with a combined population of approximately 508 million people. The EU was established to ease the movement of goods, services, and even people across the borders of the member states — thereby facilitating trade practices and avoiding constant currency exchanges. The European Union essentially operates as a single market. This powerful organisation arose from the Maastricht Treaty of 1993, which was designed to enrich the political and economic situation of Europe by bringing a common currency, the Euro, into force. It also improved cooperation with respect to immigration, judicial affairs, and the provision of asylum. In fact, the EU was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, due to its strong efforts to nurture peace and the principles of a democracy.

So why did the United Kingdom choose to exit the EU?

Posted on Facebook by Worrying Signs

Certainly, there were economic issues that were behind the inception of Brexit, or British Exit. However, it is possible that the rationale is more inclined towards societal issues and grievances. As said by Heaven Crawley, a professor of International Migration on Twitter on June 25, 2016, “This evening my daughter left work in Birmingham and saw group of lads corner a Muslim girl shouting “Get out, we voted leave”. Awful times.” This is extremely disturbing, because it shows the xenophobia that stalks a portion of the UK population.

The EU has a firm asylum policy, which was made to ensure that the human rights of refugees and migrants are protected in the member states. So, as written in The Guardian, “Polling suggests, discontent with the scale of migration to the UK has been the biggest factor pushing Britons to vote out, with the contest turning into a referendum on whether people are happy to accept free movement in return for free trade.” Due to the vast number of migrants that were entering the UK (especially because it is an English-speaking nation), domestic residents were finding it more difficult to land jobs; migration was also associated with shortage of primary school seats for local residents and lowered wages. Hence, by exiting the European Union, the UK is now liberated from the asylum and migration policies that apply to the other member states. Indeed, it has been suggested by data that this nation was not suffering economically due to the entry of migrants. It was the fear and hatred of these foreigners (also known as xenophobia) that fuelled the formation of Brexit.

As was reported by the Independent, there have been hundreds of cases of racial abuse since the United Kingdom left the European Union. Incidents against people of Polish origin have been particularly vicious. In the words of Agata Brzezniak, a Polish student who came to the UK on a scholarship, “I have made the UK my home, it is where I have felt safe and appreciated. Like many Polish people in the country I feared the EU referendum result would cause an increase in intolerance, discrimination and racism, but I didn’t think it would become so aggressive and be so immediate.” Indeed, there has been a multitude of xenophobic comments and hate crimes circulating the nation, causing much grief and fear among migrants and foreigners — many of whom are already settled in Britain and call it their home. There was even a shocking sign that said: “Leave the EU. No more Polish Vermin,” to which the Polish Embassy in London responded by saying that is was “shocked and deeply concerned”. Moreover, on the morning of June 26, 2016, racist graffiti was seen splattered on the entrance of the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) in west London.

polish vermin
Posted on Facebook by Polish Vermin.

Furthermore, as tweeted by Dr. Ali Abbasi on June 26, 2016, “Last night a Sikh radiographer colleague of mine was told by a patient “Shouldn’t you be on a plane back to Pakistan? We voted you out.” This observation is a testament to the fact that xenophobia essentially leads to the expression of irrational behaviour — for the Sikh radiographer was evidently trying to help the patient, and was concerned about his/her health. That patient didn’t see the radiographer as a fellow human being; rather he/she conjured walls based on ethnic and cultural differences. The patient didn’t see migrants as people with families, hopes, and dreams.

Moreover, what else could be the cause of this persisting xenophobia — apart from increased competition in the job sector? Nigel Farage, a British politician and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), was accused of adopting a number of xenophobic fear tactics. The UKIP is a Eurosceptic and right-wing political party. There was one poster that showed a long queue of non-white migrants on the border of the EU. Mr. Farage’s actions have been labelled as “small-minded fear tactics” by Conservatives and Green Party MPs. However, widely criticised as these xenophobic actions are, it is possible that they are partly responsible for the hatred manifesting itself among British locals.

However, there are definitely people who are working on mitigating this dreadful issue. In the words of Baroness Warsi, the former chairwoman of the Conservative party, “I’ve spent most of the weekend talking to organisations, individuals and activists who work in the area of race hate crime, who monitor hate crime, and they have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying look, we voted Leave, it’s time for you to leave.” Moreover, the huge number of comments and observations flying around social media show that the migrants living in the UK are definitely making an effort to have their voices heard — thereby raising awareness, and helping bring about social change.

But where will these innocent people go, and why should they go? People who’ve called the UK their home for years are now being cornered, insulted, and threatened. Migrants who saw this nation as an island of dreams, goals, and success are now confronted by the unfortunate fact that it isn’t the safe haven they had thought it was. Indeed, it is a sad actuality that the UK’s EU Referendum has brought a crucial and concerning aspect of British society to light —the xenophobia and hatred that shadows its local denizens. And if the British locals don’t open their eyes soon, it may be too late to salvage the remnants of xenophobic mentalities.

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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.

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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.

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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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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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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.

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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
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