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Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right’: Why ‘Naming And Shaming’ Isn’t A Good Idea

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After a successful #MeToo Campaign, a controversial offshoot emerged in the garb of women empowerment, where a California based law student Raya Sarkar deployed crowdsourcing methods by creating a spreadsheet containing anonymous complaints against sexual predators.

In my opinion, this name and shame strategy is unsuitable to a civilised society. It has the potential for becoming an avenue of misuse and is a reflection of why feminism remains an unfulfilled glory, reflecting a deeper malaise in the society where institutions have repeatedly failed women.

Several arguments make the name and shame strategy unsuitable as: this approach is akin to mob violence, lynching and kangaroo courts where the legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is violated. The ‘presumption of innocence’ which also a part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11, states that: “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.” This basic principle forms the bedrock of constitutionalism in India and has repeatedly been followed in legal recourse.

There is a danger of anonymous complainers adopting the role of victim, lawyer, as well as the judge in situations such as the name and shame game.

Further, sexual misconduct is a highly interpretative term. What might not be an intended misconduct, could be interpreted as an offence. A classic case was seen recently where a doctor in Karachi was sacked for sending a friend request to one of the patients. This was possibly done because the patient was the sister of Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and hence the complaint was taken seriously.

Moreover, the name and shame method goes directly against the “right to reputation” mentioned by the Supreme Court in Subramanian Swamy’s case (2016). The apex court said that, “The right to one’s reputation which has been held to be a facet of Article 21 – (Right to life) is basically vis-à-vis the State, and hence, Article 19(2) – (Freedom of speech & expression) cannot be invoked to serve the private interest of an individual.”

It takes a lifetime to build upon a reputation and seconds to destroy it. A reputation is necessary for personal well-being, mental health and happiness. The reputation of not just the alleged person, but also of the family, relatives and organisation where a person is working, gets jeopardised. Naming and shaming without proof and evidence has the potential to ruin a hard-earned reputation. Also, it is hard to deny the prevalent trend of misuse of laws which are not gender-neutral by women, and this naming and shaming exercise is not gender-neutral.

A classic case to prove the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband and his relatives) are dowry-related cases. This has been acknowledged by the Supreme Court in several cases like Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar (2014), and more recently in Rajesh Sharma and Ors v State of UP and Another (2017).

Justice Kailash Gambhir’s (Delhi HC) guidelines on 498A cases, 2008 were also given in similar regard. Hence, it becomes tough to argue about why anonymous complaints will not become another avenue for witch-hunting, pursuing a personal vendetta and undermining the rule of law.

An intellectual discourse within feminists is divided on such methodology. Liberal feminists strive for sexual equality via political and legal reform, and a recent post by a famous feminist Nivedita Menon against the ongoing paradigm is a reflection of liberal feminist against such social media lynching.

However, radical feminists who attack patriarchy believing that women are denied ‘authentic subjectivity’ (Simone De Beauvoir) could well support the cause. Such adherence to ideas of ideology has led situations where core feminist agenda has been overshadowed by the differences between feminism. Feminism in India remains an example of unfulfilled glory.

However, all such incidents also reflect a deeper point on how society sees the route to justice. We have a judiciary with over three crore cases pending and with vacancies unfulfilled at each level. We have a police force which is unable to justify PM Modi’s acronym SMART (strict and sensitive, modern and mobile, alert and accountable, reliable and responsible, tech-savvy and trained.) We have a society deeply entrenched in patriarchy, where women are still seen relatively innocent to men, and thereby crimes go unabated.

One can not deny the problem women face and how Indian institutions are failing them, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Even governance failure doesn’t permit such recourse in a civilised society where education, skill development and empowerment are enhancing at a rapid pace and women are a part of it.

The solution lies in information dissemination where initiatives of the government need to be promoted and if such initiatives fail then the government needs to be held accountable.

Like, recently the government launched SHe-box portal where sexual harassment at the workplace can be reported, mandatory panic buttons in mobile phones, helplines like 181, 182, etc.

Someone may argue about the lack of functioning of these initiatives, but the better and proper recourse would be to highlight if these initiatives don’t work instead of undermining the rule of law under the garb of anonymity in social media.

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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 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.

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