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He Circulated My Nude Picture After A Year

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It’s been five years to the story that I’m going to share with you today. But this event has completely shifted the paradigm of my life. It haunts me wherever I go. I wonder if there are going to be many people who would like to talk about this because I know, Indian society, in general, doesn’t. 

I am a twenty-two-year-old masters student and I’m going to be very honest. My school life was messed up, partly because I was messed up because of other reasons like society being messed up. Being an average teenager, I liked it when guys took interest in me, maybe this was in some way a conformity for me. I used to seek acceptance. Being young I made many mistakes, like many (with the greatest emphasis). There was a school senior I had a huge crush on. And he knew about it because my friends back in school thought it was important to inform him. Well, even if they hadn’t informed him, he would have known.

I was a teenager trying to figure out what love was all about and at that time it was all giggles and laughs. Social media platforms were new at that time, so we would rarely exchange ‘awkwardness’ online. He never said hi to me in school, I was aware there was somebody else he might be interested in. But deep down I managed to believe he liked me and was really interested in me. The frequency of our conversations increased. At that time, I was in 10th grade. After some months passed, he said, to prove I ‘trusted’ him, I should send him a naked picture of me. I declined and he said he can’t talk to me any further because there is nothing without trust. After debating I finally sent him a picture without covering my face. I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next, I didn’t see anything coming. I and that guy never became friends, we never greeted each other in person, he was just a social media acquaintance and we drifted apart eventually. 

When I was in the 11th grade, he started blackmailing me. He wanted keys to a secluded room in my school that one of my friends at that time had access to. When I asked that person for the keys, he refused and said, “he’s blackmailing toh voh circulate hogi hi kabhi na kabhi”. He blackmailed me that he was going to circulate the picture sooner or later. I thought this person was the worst, but he was only speaking the truth. I approached my school counsellor about this, I gave her a letter. Everything that happened, later on, was in such a hush-hush manner that I didn’t get a lot of information. But in the end, he didn’t circulate that picture. 

One year later, after he had collected his transfer certificate and character certificate from our school, the worst happened for me. I remember it all; it was a day before a friend’s birthday, I was very happy, we went dancing. Next day I decided not to go to school and I got a call from my classmate asking if I was fine. Being a bubbly person, I answered, of course! She asked me to ‘take care’, which was strange. She gave me a hint of some ‘picture’ in the conversation but said she was not really aware. It only turned out that she had a lot more information than I did anyway I told her I’ll see her the next day. 

When I went to school the next day, I was roaming around with my best friend at that time. Around lunch break, a bunch of my classmates came up to me and said, “we just saw your topless picture on XYZ’s phone”. I had no clue, but I had a clue. All I could do was, lock myself in the washroom and cry. I still remember how my friend had locked herself with me and she too started crying looking at my state. A teacher intervened, she was informed about what had happened, she kept me with her the entire day till I reached home safely. I was advised to take a few days off; which I did. 

I remember going back to school after a long break. I remember all the stares and all the whispers… Girls were talking about how I had spread my own picture to gain popularity! I’m not sure if that is how life works… but okay. Everybody wanted to stare at me but nobody wanted to talk. Super juniors who used to call me “didi” were messaging me about the picture. It was being spread like a wildfire. All the people I met told me how it was my fault. Also, I was conditioned to say, it was a morphed picture in case anyone asked. Because it happened in a city like Delhi, the picture soon travelled from my school to my locality in no time.

I remember going out for swimming and on my way back, I could hear people talking about me really loudly, staring at me and calling me, “voh picture wali ladki”, abusing me in rustic Hindi, which I’ll skip for now. As a result, I stopped going out. Being a part of Indian society where women are suppressed- mentally, sexually, professionally, physically etc. nobody wants to talk about such issues.  Mine is not the first or the last case, if we go back a little, in 2004 there was an MMS scandal involving a student from Delhi Public School. It was in the news, everyone still remembers it, but there is still no way to control the situation.

To prevent incidents like this from happening again mobile phones were banned in schools. But is this a fruitful solution? I also got to know about more girls who had their ex-boyfriends and guys they had a ‘crush’ on, releasing intimate or private pictures which they might have shared at some point with them. If this has become a phenomenon, why is it not being addressed? My family was not conservative, they took care of me, of course with subtle taunts, but it could have been worse.

I wonder about other young girls who have faced a similar situation or are getting blackmailed by somebody at this moment do they have a support system? I couldn’t find any statistics or data to confirm this. It took me five years to talk about this, it is a traumatic incident that acts as an anchor to my mental health. The trauma and the shaming that follows an incident like this is so huge that victims do not speak up. 

‘Victim-shaming’ is the card that is generally played by the masses in situations like these. I am characterless, other women who have suffered and had their privacy infringed and abused with, are characterless. Honestly, I’m okay with the labels if it makes anyone feel good about themselves. But it’s not just about me, our society better find a solution to this! 

The guy eventually shifted to Mumbai for higher studies and I couldn’t do anything about what he did to me. It’s been a long time and now he’s leading a happy life. But it kills me to this day to see how my life has become a mess. I often wonder if justice is a real thing.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/125LyJwZ_LDEkRu5XQy4f1SE96kERMzkAVMBTdy1lMuI/viewform?pli=1&edit_requested=true

I’m building a support group for hopeless souls like me who went through or are going through a similar experience. Please fill the form attached above!

We’re not alone, we’re there for each other.

 

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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.

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.

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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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