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Nirbhaya

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“I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?”  – Laurie Halse Anderson

It was a cold winter evening, 16 December 2017 when a young woman of age 23, Jyoti Singh and her friend Awindra Pratap Pandey were returning home. They had watched a movie together Life of Pi together. I guess they had enjoyed that evening together for the last time. Little did they know the ordeal was about to begin.

They boarded a joy rider bus from Munrika for Dwarka, the clock ticked 9.30PM IST. Apart from the duo, there were six other people in the bus and in that group of six men there was a minor too. Awindra got apprehensive when he realized that the bus has deviated from the regular route and also the doors were shut.

Awaindra reached out to those men and broke into a tussle with them. Those men taunted him that he had enjoyed enough with his girlfriend, gagged him, beat him with an iron rod. He was knocked unconscious.

Unable to witness the violence Jyoti reached out to those assailants, she fought with all her strength, but they laughed like those beasts ready to pounce on her and tear her flesh. She was dragged to the back end of the bus where they beat her up with that iron rod, raped her, pushed that iron rod in her, pulled out her intestines, one by one they all raped her till she could no longer bear the pain and she closed her eyes.

That iron rod was later nothing but an L shaped object used as a wheel jack handle.

The minor took her intestine in his hands, looked at it and laughed his heart out and threw that intestine away for the dogs to feast on. They also threw those unconscious souls in the street at 11.00PM IST. Those naked souls lay like dead flesh in that cold winter night. Some good Samaritan called the cops who took them to Safdarjung hospital.  Medical investigations revealed there had been severe damage to Jyoti’s Uterus, genitals and intestine.

There was a nationwide outcry, the team of doctors tried their best to save the woman, and there were pressures from politicians as well to extend the best medical treatment to the victims. The then PM Manmohan Singh took a decision in a special cabinet meeting to shift her to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for multi-organ transplant but nothing helped her. She tried to fight, she tried her best but she lost her battle on 29 December 2012.

The arrests were done, there were investigations, there were protests in the entire nation, and noted personalities condemned the barbaric act. The court’s proceedings happened as per our law. The verdict was pronounced by our court of justice. The victim was named Nirbhaya as she fought to live. BBC made a film on her India’s daughter after interviewing one of the rapists locked at Tihar Jail. In December 2013, Jyoti’s family opened Nirbhaya trust to assist the women who have experienced similar atrocity. Last but not the least, one good news, Awindra Pratap Pandey survived.

In my essay, I spoke on one Nirbhaya. I question the society how safe are we? That same incident can happen to me as well. There had been numerous occasions where I was groped in public. How do I stop it? I still face the same when I travel in public transport, as a working woman I travel alone even in the dead of night and I may be another victim of rape.

As per Wikipedia: “Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. Out of these, 24,470 were committed by someone known to the victim (98% of the cases).  Further reports First Post“The 2015 National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data on the proximity of offenders to victims (the most recent data available) shows that in 95 percent of all rape cases, the offender knew the victim […]. According to the data collated by the NCRB, Madhya Pradesh with 4,391 cases, Maharashtra with 4,144, Rajasthan with 3,644, Uttar Pradesh with 3,025, Odisha with 2,251 and Delhi with 2,199 recorded the highest number of reported rape cases. However, it must be noted that a lower rape count could mean a lower ‘reported’ rape count. States that do better on other gender parity metrics (literacy rate, sex ratio, workforce participation etc) are likely to see a higher count of reported rapes because more victims try to access the justice system. For example, Kerala reported 1,256 rapes while Bihar reported 1,041 rapes, despite the fact that the population of Bihar is three times the population of Kerala. The interactive data dashboard breaks down the numbers by national average, state/Union territory and proximity of offenders to victims.”

I have just provided the statistics, the numbers.

In conclusion, I say numbers are constant. Until they’re not. Our inability to influence outcome is the great equalizer. Makes the world fair. Computers generate random numbers in an attempt to glean meaning out of probability. Endless numerical sequences, lacking any pattern. During cataclysmic global events… tsunami, earthquake, the attacks on 9/11… these random numbers suddenly stop being random. As our collective consciousness synchronizes, so do the numbers. Science can’t explain the phenomenon, but religion does. It’s called prayer. A collective request, sent up in unison. A shared hope. Numbers are constant, until they’re not. Make the nation a better place. Media is a powerful weapon to reach out to the masses but as a woman, I appeal to stop rape, please stop sharing those videos on social media.

I am a woman myself, I am groped in public very often, let me not get raped. Let the numbers not increase for I say numbers are constant until they are not. I wish to live, I don’t want to die. Do not rape me, please. I am a woman, respect me I plead.

Today is 16 December 2017, exactly five years of that incident, can I say that I am safe if I go out for a movie tonight?

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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