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Where Are We Going Wrong In Our Fight Against Rape Culture In India?

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From the Nirbhaya case of 2012 in Delhi to the present, there has been a lot of hype to prevent rape cases. The government, the opposition parties, the media, unions or groups of people, social activists, Bollywood celebrities, or the individual; everyone stands against this horrific crime. No one supports rape culture, and everyone wants India to be free from sexual abuse and crimes against women. From the streets to our social media feeds, from TV studio debates to Parliament session discussions, the voices are the same, and many of us clearly speak against rape. But the situation is still unchanged! We protest crimes against women but the big question is this: who supports this type of inhumanity? Why has our voice not reached their ears, while we protest?

Is protesting the only way to prevent the rape cases in our society or we will have to move forward from this to make society free from rape? Have our protests become so selective that we are unable to carry out a solution in the long term? In my opinion, we protest via our political narratives against sexual abuse, but failed to pick up on the real problem. Our protests focus more on the political establishment that we need to stand against it rather than ensure justice for the victims. The political masters if our country always influence this type of protest to gain the votes in the next election. And we just give in! We never speak for ourselves. We are following in the steps of our political masters, whether they may in the government or in the opposition’s seat. We have the misconception that we have spoken a lot, but that’s not our voice when we’re following them.

Let’s look separate cases, and different timeframes; the Delhi rape case of 2012, and of Unnao, Kathua, and Mandsaur. This may be BJP opposition of 2012, or the Congress opposition of 2018. But while they are in the power, they make only one statement: rape can’t be politicised. Along with his council of ministers, our PM Narendra Modi and repeats the same line too. But it’s interesting to recall that before 2014’s general elections he appealed to the people to remember the horrific crime of 2012, before casting their votes. Rahul Gandhi from the Congress party took the part in a protest at India Gate. The same thing happened in 2012, but the protesters were from BJP!

Neither Congress nor the BJP or any previous ruling parties support the inhumanity and brutality against women. Then why they don’t come forward together to prevent the crime? Why won’t they make any strict laws? Why are they only playing blame games with each other? Are the rape cases then political issues for them? Or are they just trying to clean up their own image, are they covering up their multiple failures with a blanket of other issues? This is also something voters must ask our politicians before the next election.

On the other hand, we have seen that some of our political representatives speaks up about the issue, but many make senseless remarks! After all, how can we solve the problem when some talk nonsense, and others are in favour of the rapists! Even providing garlands to accused of horrific crime like lynching!

The problem lies with us. Do we leave these problem only as political talk? Do we only see it through a political and religious perspective? We failed to understand that rape is not a ‘political’ or ‘religious’ problem; it’s India’s problem. We care more about our religion and our politics, and this diverts attention from the issue.Caste-, community-, and region-wise selective narratives also divert people’s attention. We merely believe in social media posts, divisive dialogues, and naming and shaming one another. But we fail to empathise with the emotions of a survivor, of another human being. We remember our religion, caste, community, language, and the region where we live within the Indian territory, our likeness dis-likeness within our political sphere, all in time to react or to make our voice heard. But, most interestingly, we forget to live and act as human beings. Justice should not be denied because of the religion, caste, community or region to which any person belongs!

Reports of rape are increasing day by day in our society, which is a shame for society. But we never shout out loud against such crimes equally. Now we protest nationwide against the Kathua and Unnao rape cases, but how many of us in mainland India care about the brutality faced by the women in Assam in recent times? There are several cases of rape registered in recent times, but our media fails to make those national headlines. No TV news debate, no candlelight march at India Gate, not a single tweet!

But why am I telling you this when it will not affect the people’s mindsets anymore. We do not know how many rapes there are. Newspaper reports are for entertainment and promoting causes; police reports from states are either too low, or too high. This type of selective outrage pulls the nation into a problem, and makes trouble for individuals.

To conclude, rape is a horrific crime, not a religious or political issue! If today we fail to raise our voice then the next generation will not forgive us! The state machinery and law will not succeed alone in preventing these horrific crimes until we don’t change our mindsets and those societal views that only cause an increase in rape cases. Therefore, we must also deal with the psychological aspects of these crimes through proper education and counseling. Meanwhile, the lack of administrative support on the part of police and delays at the judicial level also must be highlighted. Some sort of reform is also required in our education system, along with the judiciary system. Political dialogues should also be reduced, and we should instead focus on prevention of such crimes. On social media, we should also avoid naming and shaming, which never helps solve problems. And finally, there should be a free and fair inquiry in all rape cases, and the guilty should be punished immediately.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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