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3 Things #MeToo Supporters Are Getting Horribly Wrong

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Thank heavens that #MeTooIndia is a reality and by every passing day, it’s gaining momentum.

Social media and news channels are in a total frenzy right now. Of course like every other debate, there are strong protests on both sides of the debate. Some people are launching smear campaigns against survivors speaking out, and others are coming out in support of survivors.

And there is this third category of people that are supporting the campaign, but their perception of rape and sexual assault is quite messed up, they are causing more harm than good. And these are influential women from Bollywood. Here they are:

1. Raveena Tandon Claiming ‘Strong’ Women Don’t Get Raped

In the video below, you can hear Raveena being wholly outraged by these sexual predators and seems to be in support of the survivors. Kudos to her for even speaking out. But when as an influential person you are using your platform, wouldn’t it be nice to educate yourself a little about the issue in the first place?

In this video, you can see Raveena mentions at 26:04, “I’ve not been sexually harassed because no one has the guts to!” She continues to say she would punch them back in the face etc.

This kind of narrative is extremely offensive and insulting to survivors of sexual assault, especially considering Vinta Nanda, who has accused Alok Nath of raping her, sitting right there with Raveena.

The truth is that rape, and sexual assault has nothing to do with how strong you are as a woman. To feel better about yourself, you can tell yourself those things, so you feel like you have some control over it. But in reality, rape is not about how powerful or weak you are; it is about who the rapist is, and how he has used his position to gain your trust.

It is comparably easy to kick a stranger on the street who tries to assault you, but when a trusted teacher or a ‘tayaji’ would touch you inappropriately, you would freeze. This is called a ‘Freeze Reaction’. You may still try to run but every human reaction to such trauma is different, and no one should be judged on their reaction because this is #victim blaming. It puts the onus of rape on the victim. Thus, harming the movement instead of helping it.

It is also comparable to a complaint about a stranger in the street because of the power dynamics – but not about a well-respected teacher, a family member or a boss. Hence, Raveena, kindly educate yourself and be more sensitive about the things you say next time.

2. Kirron Kher Suggested, “Don’t Wait To Raise Your Voices, It Will Be Better For Everyone!”

This is what privileged and oblivious women who have no clue what it is like to be a survivor sound like. She talked about how women should be heard and respected, but ultimately pushed the ‘Vishakha guidelines’ on the faces of survivors, and very diplomatically ended her talk.

First of all, if the law in India worked so wonderfully, we won’t need a #MeToo movement for women to be believed. And secondly, women are not just getting assaulted at places of work, but even in their homes by their husbands, and marital rape in India is not even recognised as a crime! So stop hiding behind the ‘law’ curtain and empathise with the victims. Worst of all, she said that the victims should not wait and immediately raise their voices when such a thing happens.

Her insensitive remark shows that she knows absolutely nothing about what an assault survivor goes through.

Every victim knows that the longer they wait, the chances of getting substantial forensic evidence against their perpetrator will decrease.

But when one goes through an incident like this, the last thing on their mind is evidence. Victims first have to deal with the fact that this has actually happened to them; and then follows the shame, guilt, and self-doubt questioning if it was their fault.

The society that we live in has weird ideas about rape victims. Parineeti Chopra in her interview said something like she would rather be dead than harassed etc. Again, her intentions being ‘good’ and her mission being ‘supportive’, this is an absolutely awful thing to say. Because to a survivor, this means “you better die now since you have been raped as death is better than being a rape victim”.

Thousands of rape survivors do precisely that. The rape did not kill them, but society’s idea that a rape victim has no worth did.

Survivors of assault have a lot to do – to heal enough to be in a position to even admit it to themselves that it happened. So please stop questioning them or pushing them to report an assault the instant it happens. It can’t. Victims need the time and healing to share their story, and it is their choice alone. Yes, they are aware of the chances of getting justice but to go through an assault is a lot messier than legal justice.

3. Himani Shivpuri Judge Survivors For Silence But She Won’t Tell Her Story

This is an interesting one.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you stay quiet for fear of losing jobs, contracts etc. But, you judge other survivors conveniently for not speaking up earlier.

In this interview below, this hypocrisy is shamelessly visible. Supportive of survivors especially against Alok Nath, Himani sounds like she is supportive of the movement. Good for her, good for us. You can hear her talk about why are other big names have not been accused yet – as there are many she knows about. She does the same thing that Raveena and Parineeti did, saying she is a strong woman and she would have done this and that – but other ‘kamzor’ women can’t or won’t speak up for themselves.

Ultimately, the journalist asks that since she has also been harassed, when will she talk about her assaulters because since the #MeToo movement is gaining momentum, this seems to be a good time for it.

She says “I am not afraid…” and continues to say exactly what an afraid person would say. Of course, she is afraid that she won’t get work, she won’t be hired. But judging other survivors and expecting them to risk their all while you are protecting your future is highly hypocritical.

The problem with this nation is not that people don’t think rape is bad.

Of course, the majority of people would say rape is bad, and rapists should be punished.

But, it is the details that make all the difference. It is evident that society upholds the rape culture and is supportive of the rapist as people’s first instinct is to find ways to put the onus of rape on the victim. Women are deluding themselves by thinking they cannot be raped because they are ‘strong’ or outspoken or have any control over such things.

No woman is immune to sexual assault. That is the reality of our society. So, please educate yourself about the dilemma and traumas of survivors before talking big on national television. Your heart may be in the right place, but your tongue certainly isn’t.

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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 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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