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The Kathua Rape Is Religious And Communal, So Please Don’t Try To Make It Look Otherwise

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Another day. Another rape. Another Nirbhaya. Another stream of hashtags.

An eight-year-old Kashmiri girl was kidnapped and repeatedly raped inside a Hindu temple for eight days. Later she was murdered, mutilated and dumped on the street.

Once again the news has set TV news channels on fire. In a country where a woman is raped every 15 minutes, what does it take for something to make it to the top of a news channels’ list? What decides if the news shall make it to the prime-time slot and what decides that another rape victim shall barely get a mention on the 6th page in a tiny column of a newspaper?

Religion, race and income status play a role. In the case of the eight-year-old girl, it seems to be the major factor.

She belonged to a Muslim tribe called the Bakarwals, a nomadic indigenous tribe, and the village where they lived had a majority of people believing in the Hindu faith

The Hindus wanted to instil fear in the hearts of the minority Muslims and chase them away from the area. Hence, they planned and organized a strategy that involved raping and murdering a minor. It bears repetition that the crime was a planned conspiracy, with the motive of terrorising the minority to chase them away.

One may ignore the religious aspect of the whole rape case, but two other stark realities enter the picture.

The first one is her burial. The child’s coffin was denied a proper burial in her father’s land. The Hindu community leaders once again threatened violence and refused to let her rest in peace.

The second one is the fact that the rape took place in January and today is April. It took three whole months for the police even to file a complaint, and take the case to the courts, simply because the lawyers are also associated with the political leaders involved in the rape case. The shocking thing is that protests are being held, but not against child abuse or hate crimes, but to protect the rapists.

A so-called organization called the Hindu Ekta Manch had in fact taken out rallies with 5000 people, carrying the Indian national flag with them. The idea was basically to win the support of people of the same faith.

According to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012, every suspect in a child sexual abuse case is not even allowed bail. That means even a suspected paedophile (not convicted) is denied the benefit of the doubt, simply because of the gravity of these crimes and the harms such person can cause while remaining on the loose.

However, in this case, and the Unnao rape case that is in the headlines lately, both suspects are associated with the political leaders of the ruling party, and both have not spent a day in prison despite the massive evidence and witnesses.

In any democracy, the blame game between political parties is business as usual. During the Nirbhaya rape case when the Congress party was in power, similar reactions from the opposition were witnessed.

Since the Bhartiya Janta Party (B.J.P) came to power through, India has become a playground for divisive politics, mob lynchings, and hate crimes more than ever. Polarization has become a normalized part of the public sphere.

And thus it is pertinent to recognize not just the massive problem of women and child sexual abuse in India, but also of divisive politics and hate crime.

Most people still struggle to see the difference and argue that we must rise above religion and the death of the girl is just a crime against humanity.

The power dynamics that structure our society have an impact on people’s lives and must be recognized.

In 2017 in the UK, Resham Khan and her cousin were victims of an acid attack. The crime itself was that of acid attack, but the motive was hate; hence it was recognised as a hate crime.

When people of colour, indigenous people, those with a different faith, race, gender, sexual orientation, cultures, abilities and income levels are attacked without provocation or motive, it is a hate crime.

Of course not every crime they encounter will be motivated by hate but those that come from extremist ideology and intolerance must be registered as such.

For those that still deny this as a hate crime, here is a reaction from a Hindu employee (now sacked due to his comment) of Kotak Mahindra Bank: Vishnu had written, “Good that she was killed at this age itself. Otherwise, she would have grown up and come back as a suicide bomber against India.”

To celebrate the brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old child, if hate isn’t a motivator, what is?

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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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