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‘Quotas For Women In IITs’ To ‘Assault On Doctors’: 10 News Events Of 2017 You Probably Missed

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Traditional media is great. But very often, it goes the wrong way and doesn’t know where all to look, and what all to cover. These were some of the issues which hadn’t got due news coverage but were of great concern. Most of the issues are important as we need to watch out for them in 2018 and an active citizenry needs to examine them. They are important milestones in 2017, but we have to remember these as we go into the new year.

1. Haryana: Child Sex Ratio Improving

Haryana for the first time, in past two decades, has crossed 900 mark in sex ratio at birth. The feat is worth a praise owing to policy interventions, financial assistance, regulatory practices and can be a model for other states suffering from same problems.

2. Service Charge Made Voluntary

Then, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced that service charges in hotels and restaurants are voluntary, and consumer dissatisfied with the service can have it waived off. The move was widely hailed, but needs greater public awareness as information dissemination to consumers is weak and needs greater attention.

3. Forum To Hear Complaints By Civil Society

Moreover, a group of eminent citizens namely Justice (retd.) A.P. Shah (Chairperson), Prashant Bhushan, former CIC Wajahat Habibullah, social activist Aruna Roy etc. have set up a Citizens Whistleblower Forum (CWF) to hear complaints of corruption from whistleblowers. Since the Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in 2011 by the Parliament, but the government has still not notified the Act. This initiative could hold immense promise.

4. Assault On Doctors

Further, various incidents were witnessed involving assault on doctors where five doctors were attacked in Maharashtra. This issue raises several ethical concerns regarding our public healthcare system where blame game is seen. The patients blame doctors and doctors blame the broken health system depicting a greater malaise where doctor-patient mistrust is widening.

5. IITs: Quota For Women

Also, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have decided to introduce a supernumerary quota for women from 2018, to improve the gender composition of their classrooms. The decision has been taken to introduce 20% additional seats, exclusively for women. It is a condition-based quota, eg. if there are 100 seats and only 10 have been taken by women, then the institute will add 20% seats over and above the actual strength, but only for women. The move is aimed at improving the poor enrolment of women in the IITs.

6. Transgender Sports Meet

Thereafter, in a major initiative to thrust transgender rights, the first Transgender Sports meet was organised by the Kerala State Sports Council at Thiruvananthapuram. Such initiatives need greater publicity to ensure other states follow the suit.

7. Inhuman Condition Of Prisoners In India

Then, the murder of a women life convict in Byculla women’s prison over some missing ration depicted the problems of prison violence and the inhuman condition of prisoners in India. The issue needs larger debate as the very idea of reformative justice through prisons will result in failure if basics of life are not provided for.

8. Misuse Of Laws By Women Recognized Once More

Moreover, the Supreme Court ordered a number of safeguards to prohibit the misuse of the anti-dowry provisions, under section 498a of IPC in Rajesh Sharma case (2017). The Supreme Court noted that while charge-sheets were filed in 96% of the cases regarding dowry, only 14.4% resulted in convictions in past decade. This shows us a need for a larger public debate on the growing misuse of laws by women, the necessity of laws to be gender-neutral, and what the misuse shows of changing societal nature.

9. Sub-Quota Within The OBCs

Further, the Union cabinet has approved setting up of a commission headed by Justice Rohini, under Article 340 to examine whether sub-quotas needs to be created within the central list of OBC reservation. It will also work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters – in a scientific approach – for the sub-categorisation. It is often seen that dominant caste within OBCs eat away the pile of quota leaving the marginalized OBCs away from benefits of reservation. Since this phenomenon also leaves the reservation exercise meaningless as rightful claimants are not identified, the commission could serve a larger purpose.

10. Consent In Sexual Assault Redefined

Additionally, a recent Delhi High Court judgment has opened up a new discourse on the issue of sexual consent. Delhi high court acquitted director Mahmood Farooqui, accused of rape. One of the grounds for acquittal was that the negation of consent was not clear enough under the circumstances and that the complainant merely resisted “feebly”. The accused was given the benefit of doubt because he had no intention to rape her and it was unclear that she had refused consent. This has opened up a debate on consent being subject to other considerations. The issue needs wider debates amidst growing cases of misuse of laws by women against growing crimes against women.

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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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