Stop Giving Licence To The ‘Good Guys’ To Get Away With Assaulting Women

Patriarchy is a well-played game, and I’m the winner of this game just like many other men. I’m saying this because it’s the patriarchy which has made me privileged and powerful – to the point that I can narrate one of my sisters’ story instead of her. Because patriarchy has put her at the bottom line, which automatically makes me the beneficiary. Patriarchy functions in a malign and severe way. But I believe every story (small or big) – needs to be told and encouraged to come forward; even if we feel ‘sick and tired’ of such incidents.

I have witnessed many incidents which can be considered as harassment and assault. I would like to narrate one such incident that I had witnessed a long time back, and I believe there are countless women out there who have faced such an experience and still face on a regular basis. They feel guilty because of someone else’s misconduct and obnoxiousness.

It was around five in the evening. I went to a field with one of my sisters. I was very young then and my sister was a few years older than me. While returning from the field, a guy passed an offensive and sexist comment about my sister. At that time I didn’t even know how to react. I was too young to take any action or even understand what was happening or why he said something like that. What was my sister’s fault?

He was trying to come closer to my sister, but it was daytime and there were people around, so he went away. What was even more strange to me was that throughout the way, she requested me not to tell anyone about what happened when we reach home. I wanted to narrate this to an elder in my family. I got scared when that guy commented and tried to come closer to my sister. Later, I understood why she was requesting me not to tell this to anyone. I think most of the women can relate to why she was asking me to keep quiet.

Even today, when everyone is using social media and sharing their stories. She might not be in a position like millions of others to share her story. She fears losing so many things and does not want anyone to blame and shame her. It is terrifying, horrible and painful to experience an inappropriate touch, molestation, or bullying, and to keep it a secret for years and sometimes the entire lifetime. And after all of this, we become offensive and defensive when someone comes forward and speaks out.

The women who are coming out and speaking up are doing a really great job. So, rather than pulling them down, encourage them and stand by them. Support those who don’t have access to social media platforms or other means of calling out their molesters. As a man, I may rarely experience or realise or even imagine what millions of women suffer on a regular basis, just because of the male privilege which I inherited through patriarchy.

If someone feels disgusted by a few names that have come out in the last few days, and the way everyone narrated their incidents – which made many the people’s blood boil, think of those incidents of harassment and molestation which are unnamed and unheard with the perpetrators unidentified. However, the most ironical thing is that many abusers are still respected, honoured, supported, protected, and appreciated. I know there are people out there who might get offended while reading this, but let me tell you, it’s not that we don’t know about them, it’s not about understanding; it’s about our choice to remain silent.

So, nothing’s wrong if we don’t want to realise our biases; because we were raised not to. Some of us might get saddened to see the ‘good guys’ we liked being called out and accused of sexual misconduct or harassment. But labelling someone as a ‘good guy’ itself somehow gives that person ‘a safer zone’ – where that person could use their privilege to get away with inappropriate behaviour. We all know why it happens. So, stop giving license to the ‘good guys’ to harass and assault someone – by not recognising the harasser hidden beneath that ‘good guy’ veneer.

Patriarchy isn’t a recent phenomenon; it’s a historical phenomenon which has been passed on to generation after generation. Everyone labelled as ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ are products of the same patriarchal society. Calling out their obnoxious and toxic masculine behaviour is just a new progressive move towards a better society and it will also give way to the much-needed discussion around masculinity, gender stereotypes, and how to raise the young boys to make them better human beings. MeToo is a revolutionary movement of our time, and we must ensure it succeeds.

Rather than being defensive or offensive, we must be thankful to all those women who are coming out and speaking up. It will also help other survivors to come out, speak the truth, and relieve themselves of the burden of unhealed pain. It will also help them in getting rid someone else’s guilt and it will also help men to learn from this movement and evolve as decent human beings. These women are doing what our government and the judiciary have failed to do. If you are not ready to be a part of the solution, then don’t be a part of the problem either.

This movement is a signal for us to rethink, reimagine, reconstruct ourselves, and to question and challenge all the institutions and individuals which try to normalise harassment, assault, oppression, domination, and violence. It’s not a gender war; it’s a significant attempt to create gender-equal, violence-free and humane society. The impact of this movement is evident. Many famous personalities have stepped down and resigned from their jobs and lost their long earned respect and dignity within a short span of time. These men are quitting not because of any legal action or pressure, but because they accepted or were made to admit that whatever they did was utterly wrong. They must be held accountable for their obnoxious behaviour. It’s not a question of popularity or defamation. It’s about basic human decency. Let’s learn something out of it and be a part of the change.

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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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