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Why Is Delhi Unable To Shake Off Its ‘Rape Capital’ Tag?

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Many described Dec 16, 2012 as the date that would change Delhi’s attitude towards women safety. Thousands protested the brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh by six men in a moving bus in the nation’s capital. Four years later though, things have only gotten worse in the capital, with one case of rape registered every four hours in the city. That’s six in a day.

This despite the fact that Delhi is the nation’s capital and the country’s seat of power. It is home to India’s President and Prime Minister, and houses the country’s highest decision-making body (Parliament) and judicial body (the Supreme Court). Leader after leader, from the nation’s Prime Minister to the city’s Chief Minister have continued to act concerned about the city’s women, claiming to take steps for their welfare.

Since 2012, the government has initiated a spate of reforms to address different issues related to violence against women and the country even has a tough anti-rape law in place to punish those found guilty.

Yet, as data shows, stories of rape and sexual assault continue to haunt Delhi. According to Delhi police, incidents of rape have only seen a steady rise in the capital from 716 reported incidents in 2012 to 2199 in 2016.

Just this year, on December 13, a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped by four men in south-east Delhi’s Jamia Nagar. The four men had also videotaped the act and blackmailed the teenager. In September, a 3-year-old was brutally raped by her uncle and burnt with cigarettes at their house in Govindpuri. On Thursday night, a woman was allegedly raped in a car in Delhi’s South Moti Bagh area.

Police claim the high numbers are due to an increased reporting of cases, but have no reason for why conviction rates for the same continue to be dismally low. Conviction rate for rape stood at 49.25% in 2012, and dipped further to 35.69% in 2013 and 34.5% in 2014. In 2015, it dropped still further to a mere 29.37% in 2015. Delhi, in fact, reported the highest crime rate (184.3) in the country in 2015 against the national average of 54.3, data from the National Crime Records Bureau revealed. It also got the distinction of having the highest rate of assault on women the same year: 57.8 for 1,00,000 population with 5,367 reported cases.

So what gives? Why is Delhi unable to shun its infamous ‘rape capital’ tag despite all efforts? There are no straight answers, but it is clear the issue is not getting the attention it deserves.

In the last couple of years at least, Delhi’s women have become victims of a power tussle between the Centre and the Delhi Government. The high-level committee on women safety which should be chaired by the Union Home Minister and is supposed to comprise the Delhi CM, Delhi LG, DCW Chairperson and Police Commissioner has not even been constituted on account of the fight for governance going on in the city since 2013. Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor is yet to convene a single meeting on women’s safety in the past year.

The consequence – crucial decisions related to safety of women like the formation of thana level committees, implementation of the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, digitisation of police records, installation of CCTV cameras especially in police stations, construction of toilets, forensic labs and courts are still stuck, awaiting a decision.

The Nirbhaya Fund, set up in the memory of Jyoti Singh, remains grossly underutilised, with the government being able to spend just 40 percent of the 3000 crore corpus.

Programmes of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Commission like the 181 Women Helpline, the Rape Crisis Cell and others are on a verge of closure, clearly suggesting that while much is said in political bluster, little has been done in the past four years to ensure things change on ground.

Many people are of the opinion that rape isn’t a law and order issue, but a social one, and that the solutions lie with reforming society, educating the youth and changing mindsets. True as that may be, the fact remains – when it comes to fighting this issue, Delhi is already waging a losing battle because the government, both at the state and center, is not giving the issue the attention it deserves.

Unless the government takes requisite steps – whether it is a big one like reforming the education system to promote gender-sensitive education or setting up CCTV cameras – lakhs of Delhi women will continue to feel unsafe in the streets of the nation’s capital.

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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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