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Learnings From How Masaba Fiercely Shut Down Trolls Who Called Her A ‘Bastard’

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Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

Designer Masaba Gupta Mantena was only lauding a decision that the Supreme Court – the highest court of justice in the country – had already made when trolls targeted her.

On October 9, the court had banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR region to curb the alarming pollution level in the area. While many people including celebrities criticised the apex court’s move, many also came forward in its support, including Mantena. For expressing her opinion supporting the ban on sale of firecrackers, the trolls called her ‘illegitimate West Indian’ and ‘bastard child’ and her descent was questioned.

Threatening would be a crime offline or online. We can handle that by reporting that to the police. But the police often don’t make us feel comfortable enough for reporting each crime, and understanding how this hate works can perhaps offer us a clue to preventing it from happening.

Mantena, for example, didn’t go to the police. Instead she responded with the following post.

Masaba Mantena's post.
What is annoying when we see the trolls pitted against the designer is that people seemed to have forgotten the difference between the private and the public. It was a simple case of a public figure putting forth an opinion in a public space regarding an issue that concerns the public at large. But the public here decided to intrude into her personal space, dig out personal issues that are not in any way related to the issue being dealt with, and troll her online.

Sadly, Mantena’s case this isn’t the first time a person has been trolled for an opinion they have expressed. On earlier occasions, Suchitra Krishnamoorthy was trolled for her tweet against azaan, Sona Mohapatra was trolled by Salman Khan’s fans for her opinion against his rape remark, Gurmehar Kaur for saying, “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war did”. This hatred has, in fact, become so common that the stories of many people who face it aren’t considered newsworthy.

“People find pleasure in intruding other people’s personal spaces. These are the people who have difficulty with their self-esteem and have low self- esteem,” Psychologist Priyanka Behrani from Vadodara told me. People fail to accept dissenting opinion or the fame a person has and resort to scornful comments or trolls, she added.

Online haters don’t just ridicule the opinion being put forth. Instead, they take the liberty to try and ridicule your school of thought or your very existence if your opinions differ from theirs.This has often been attributed to sadistic and narcissistic pleasures. Tomas Chamarro-Premuzic, professor of Business psychology in an article for The Guardian writes, “Trolls are more likely to display noxious personality characteristics, that is, traits that impair one’s ability to build relations and function in a civilised or pro-social way”. He further calls trolls, ‘prototypical everyday sadist’.

He also calls trolling a ‘narcissistic tool’ to feel important in the online space, a status not available to everybody in the real world. Supporting this is the Social Identity Model of De-Individuation (SIDE) which states that anonymity in a crowd affects the behaviour and actions of an individual. A crowded platform like social media makes a person speak up, for a good or bad cause, because anonymity makes them feel safe.

“Online people feel anonymous and disinhibited. They lower their emotional guard and in the heat of the moment may troll either reactively or proactively,” says Prof Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University.

Despite social networking sites coming up with their options to report such people, online hate continues to exist. According to a Pew Survey, 73% of adult internet users have seen someone being harassed online, while 40% have experienced it themselves. In yet another study on Indian Internet users by Norton, eight out of ten people surveyed said they had experienced online harassment, 63% of which was through abuses and insults.

We know the usual spectrum of responses. The author of a post either decides to pull their post down, remains silent, or silences the trolls. Like Mantena, Chaity Bhatt, a student of Economics at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, for instance, silenced her troll. She had written a post following the #MeToo campaign to which the person commented, “Well, I haven’t fucked you”. He was criticised for his comments by Bhatt’s friend. “I want him to know what people think of him after this hideous act,” she told me. She would unfriend him in sometime in case he didn’t do it ‘out of shame.’ In the current scenario, perhaps this is the only resort, especially for those who don’t have access to the police, to ensuring that social media remains the democratic space that it once was.

Featured image credit: Instagram
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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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