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You Can Block Your Bully Online, But They’ll Just Move On To Someone Else

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.

A huge part of our lives is spent online on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. 

Now, the internet is supposed to be a free space where everyone and anyone can post their opinions, their thoughts, their political standing among other things, without any restriction.

In a space like this, hatred is bound to take its ugliest shape. If a person expresses an opinion that isn’t suitable in this capitalist, chauvinistic and corrupt world – ruled by people with power and money, and in any way hates the structure of the crumbling ‘paradise’, they are bound to receive threats and/or hate comments that eventually affect their daily lives and mental health.

From history, we know that power and hatred comes very easily to a huge section of people. Since centuries, people have been killing and raping out of anger, revenge and hunger to prove their power. I believe that there have been speculations (a lot of time with proof), that people in power have got their hands bloodied in order to control the masses, withhold the truth and run their countries inside a structure whose walls are made of fallacies.

It was so easy for human beings to have wars – it hardly surprises me when one gets hate online for being rational and/or upfront about an important issue. A lot of our population can threaten online and get away with it.

I am a blogger and I know a bunch of writers, artists and just other opinionated people who firmly post about who they are, what they want or think ,and a lot of times the comments on the posts amuse me.

‘Block’ and ‘Report’ buttons definitely help on a personal level – one can restore mental peace by using it, but it doesn’t really eradicate any kind of hatred. Your bully will just move on to another person.

The issue is, a lot of times people don’t think about their anger – whether they’re rational or not, they’re making sense or not. They feel an emotion, and they act on it. Does it have something to do with patriarchy as well? Do men think it’s their birthright to let their anger out anywhere and everywhere they like? Are online platforms a place without repercussions?

To write this article, I searched cyber bullying and online hate to see a general lookout on the subject. I was surprised to see articles just focused on the after effects of it! The depression, the anxiety of the victim – yes, all that is there, but what about getting to the root of the cause? What about trying to stop it from happening? Yes, the bullies cause you anxiety but don’t you think they know that? Why would they be sympathetic towards the victim when that was their motive from the beginning? Are they sadists? Possibly. They want you to stay awake at night and think about what you said because they feel it’s wrong.

Another side of the spectrum is propaganda. I think men from political parties threaten those who dare to think and voice their opinions. Why? Fear is power – and power rules people. Power that’s rooted with fear and anger. If the masses started thinking, they would be in trouble. So, they shut down the spark before it can start a fire – the age old theory.

Another aspect is a twisted idea of fame. To bring down popular people – to satisfy themselves by threatening and bullying important people in internet to feel better about themselves is a sport for them. It also makes them feel significant and might just give them some popularity.

In an unregulated space, women are the easiest targets. From rape to death threats – it’s amazing how easy it is for the people on the other side, to just write those comments and forget about it.

Recently a popular political – satire page ‘Humans of Hinditva’ on face shut down when he started to receive death threats for his family and himself. He stated he is a simple middle-class man without any political connections and would not like to end up like Gauri Lankesh or Afrazul Khan.

A nation can’t take jokes!

I think that he was raising very important political issues through his handiwork. In the 21st century, we are living in a country where apparently, the ruling government’s national propaganda is to promote a religion. A movie could not release this year because the Karni Sena, a group that didn’t have any popularity before this huge drama, threatened to behead Sanjay Leela Bhansali and cut Deepika Padukone’s nose – and they got away with it! If you’d go around asking people protesting in Mumbai against the motion picture, they might probably tell you they were given cash to stand there. I’m sure many won’t even know what they’re protesting against!

Online hate comes from a deeply rooted issue of not talking about important things on our day to day lives with our families – politics and sex are largely avoided for they make us uncomfortable.

Apparently, a woman showing her body online is liable to dick pictures and rape threats, a man questioning the government might have his house burnt down.

It’s a crime to make a joke – and it’s easier to get away with threats than satire.

Online community is a place for all but there should be some lines. You can debate all you want, agree to disagree but you shouldn’t be free to attack someone’s personal life just because you think what they’re saying is intolerable or wrong.

There’s a long way to go for humanity, and with the way our history books look, I am not very positive. All we can do is try to keep ourselves safe and start talking about issues instead of making small talks and tip-toeing around issues that makes us uncomfortable. It’s those that affect our lives the most.

In conclusion I think online hate and cyber bullying are largely ignored aspects, and sometimes even victims don’t take it seriously and meet dire consequences. The government is doing little, the authorities are least concerned and their negligence is pretty explanatory since they’re behind a lot of it.

We need to think, talk and start taking those horrible messages and comments seriously. It’s a large-scale problem and block and report buttons can’t be a complete solution. The social media authorities need to have a better filter about what’s wrong and right.

We have to find ways to help each other out, and not ignore this like so many issues are, in our daily lives.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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