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We Are Guilty Of Turning The #MeToo Movement Into A Joke

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Anyone who follows the news will know about the #MeToo wave that has travelled from Hollywood to India.

Just like we always ruin everything we adapt from the west, we did the same with this movement by adding unecessary . The #MeToo wave in Hollywood took many big names like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. They were collectively ostracised from the entertainment fraternity.

Recently, we also started on the same path, with Tanushree Dutta calling out Nana Patekar. This triggered an unprecedented act of people coming out and naming other “celebrities” from all fields be it politics, music, stand-up comedy or journalism. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction, and actions were expected to take place. But, people ended up making the victims and the movement a joke.

We all have been receiving WhatsApp forwards, Facebook and Twitter posts and memes making fun and ridiculing the entire movement with some totally illogical and skewed opinions. Let’s take a deep dive into the most common responses and then understand the gravity of the situation at hand.

It’s Just A Publicity Stunt!!

Many women who came out and told their stories were blamed for using this as a launch-pad for their otherwise dwindling careers. Even if these statements were to be true, does this deny the occurrence of such incidents? A publicity stunt is when a “respected news anchor” screams at the top of his lungs in the guise of a “debate”. It is when self-proclaimed god-men rant utter nonsense for their gullible followers. It is also when politicians are saying absolutely horrible things just to grab some eyeballs. Have we become so degenerated as a society that we are comparing the account of someone’s’ worst moment of their lives to be the same as stunts pulled by journalists and politicians. And even if this gives them some publicity then isn’t the accused responsible for so many victims to quit or change their professions. It only seems befitting that the victim’s return to so-called fame is at the hands of the accused themselves.

Why Come Forward Now And Not At The Time Of Incident?

Go back a little in your childhood. Almost all of us used to think Santa Claus is real. We all happily slept on the Christmas eve, wrote letters to Santa and opened eyes on the next day surrounded by gifts. It was only when we grew a little older did we realise that Santa is not real. We were in denial for a while, but eventually, we accepted it is true. Santa is not real.

This acceptance also came when we saw other kids of our age already accepting the reality. Similar is also the tale of #MeToo. All this while we were in denial or more commonly not aware of the forms of harassment and recourse available at our disposal. Only when people started coming forward with their stories, others also gained courage and got the outlet to channel the feelings they had kept bottled up for so long. So many of us including me did not know what all comes under the ambit of harassment. Just the fact that we are ignorant does not mean we are not guilty. Also that acts which took place a decade ago do not come with an expiry date, if their consequences on an individual are everlasting then so should be the freedom of acknowledging and bringing it to the notice of everyone.

Where’s The Proof?

This is definitely a grey area, because of the incredibly creepy people who sent out derogatory messages and unsolicited pictures which could be used later as evidence, in most cases it is merely the word of the victim against the accused. This is a question that we collectively as a society need to address. Do we place the burden of proof on the victim or do we put the burden of admission of guilt on the accused? Sadly, we mostly choose the former option. Any statement of the victim is declared hearsay. If we cannot prove the accused as innocent, we surely do not have any right to discard the statement of the victim.

This Movement Will Be Misused

People, who actually believe the above statement, are the ones who have something to hide. We all misused the law at some point. We all are guilty of bribing officers, drunk driving, violating traffic rules. All these acts do some collateral damage. In any manufacturing process, small wastage is treated as a normal loss. For example, while carrying oil by sea, some amount of the oil spill is treated as a normal loss, and the loss of ocean habitat is the collateral damage. Do we stop the manufacturing processes to curb the normal loss? NO!!

People who might be falsely accused in this movement, are the collateral damage that we must treat as normal since that is the price we need to pay to pave the way for a better society to thrive.

The entire movement should not be just name-calling. There must be some legal amendments that can be done to launch investigations and get the victims some closure. #MeToo is not supposed to be a list of the offenders; instead, it must be the torch bearer in the process of getting the victim justice. Imagine we have only got to know about the so-called celebrities, what happens day to day to ‘ordinary’ people like you and me. We have barely scraped the surface, and now we need to get our hands dirty and deep dive into this rut to find a solution to the obstacles hindering the victim to be taken seriously.

Please stop with the jokes and the casual banter about this. If you know someone who has been a victim or worse the accused, call it out. Talk to the concerned people and urge the victim to come forward. This is not about bringing justice to the victim. No justice can compensate for the self-doubt, lack of career growth, and loss of opportunities. The only thing it will do is give them some closure and ensure that whatever they lost was not in vain.

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  1. Ashu kumar

    you are an urban naxal. You all should be kicked out of this country so that it can progress and become a world superpower.

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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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