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As An AIB Fan, I Tried To Find Excuses For Them But There Are None

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The #MeToo movement started in Hollywood when two journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, from The New York Times wrote a story explaining the three decades of filmmaker Harvey Weinstein’s atrocities against women in the film industry in the form of rapes, sexual harassment, misbehaviour, and much more. It took 30 years for him to be called out and face the brunt of his actions. Moreover, it took over 80 allegations for the media to finally stop calling these women ‘attention seekers’, out to tarnish the man’s image. Subsequently, the story turned around, and many big names were called out for their sexual misconduct.

The movement gained momentum and many women, all over the world, came out to voice their stories. Ironically, this worldwide impact of #MeToo is often called “Weinstein effect”.

In the age where information travels in nanoseconds, it took over a year for the movement to finally hit India. It took so much time because when it comes to the struggles of women, everything becomes rather slow in the chaos of protecting men from the proven allegations. The delay is followed by witch-hunting. Oh yes, the witch-hunting of women has continued till date, except, now it’s insidious. Now, the women who dare to voice their opinions, their problems, and their experiences are labelled as “troublemakers” and are ostracised.

In India, the #MeToo wave first hit the academia circle in 2017 when Raya Savarkar and some DBA feminists shared LoSha publicly. It went on to oust more than 72 influential, powerful, and incumbent men. The personal accounts of the victims involved rape, molestations, harassment, etc. I wasn’t shocked. Why? Around 106 women are raped in India every day. As a woman, I have accepted that one day I could be raped too. I’d be somewhere at the wrong time, and there’d be men around me. They’ll stare at me the way every man stares at me in the metro, on roads, in the malls, in the movie theatres, in temples, in the market, and even at home. They’ll stare at my breasts and thighs; they’ll ogle and leer at my body; then they’ll strike me just like lightning strikes trees and turns it into ash.

So, the first wave of #MeToo in India didn’t shock me. But, I was shocked when comedian Utsav Chakraborty was called out for sexual harassment. My astonishment grew further when I realised that AIB knew about it and continued to work with him. Also, their redundant and asinine apology shocked me as well. They admitted that whatever they could say are just excuses, and of course it was an excuse. The allegations point out that AIB was too busy using feminism as a token to create and promote their videos and to portray themselves as “woke feminists”, instead of addressing a sexual harassment case in their circle. The cherry on the cake? The co-founder of AIB and co-king of “woke male feminists” circle Gursimran Khamba has also been alleged of harassing women for years in the past. His apology? Let’s not even talk about it.

The sacred “brotherhood” of men in such a crisis when the truth about them is finally revealed is obnoxious. To my great disappointment, few women join them too. The comments on Khamba’s “apology” (which was more of a defence with his “categorical” refusal to accept that he is an abuser) lamented that his image has been shattered by attention seeking, lying, and deceitful women. Apparently, the women are at fault here. How dare they speak against the kings of the comedy circle?

In their second statement, AIB disguised their self-victimisation in the garb of an apology. It ’s self-victimisation because instead of showing public disdain for Tanmay Bhatt’s role in the sexual harassment case and Khamba being an abuser, they were more concerned about how these two will be on a “temporary leave” and lamented over what will happen to AIB now. While the victims suffer for their whole lives, Tanmay and Khamba take the privileged road (the road most travelled by men) to take an “extended, temporary leave until further notice.” It enables them to disappear while the “ruckus” is at its peak, and return when things are muffled to make their “bros” laugh.

As an AIB fan, I did try to find excuses for them. But, there are none. When you have used feminism since 2012 to educate masses about it; make a nuanced video on “Harassment Through the Ages”; are surrounded with friends like Harnidh Kaur, Rega Jha, Srishti Dixit, Mallika Dua, etc., and write about toxic masculinity all the time, we know that you have the cognisance. You have no reason, no excuse to save yourself.

No, this #MeToo movement is not neoteric. Tanushree Dutta came out with her story about Nana Patekar in 2008. These stories have always existed, and women have faced “harassment through the ages”. Constantly and relentlessly. Even now, she’s out there fighting her case, but how many have come out to support her in an industry which has lakhs of people in it? People rewarded her courage with doubts and peremptory comments. Fact is, the struggles of women do not amount even to a picayune in a world which revolves around the men, unless every woman comes together and break this structure.

Personally, I do not like to call the experiences of the victims, which they courageously shared publicly, as ‘allegations’, because I believe them to be true. I know how difficult it is to come out and talk about these horrifying, and traumatising experiences on the risk of getting publicly ridiculed.

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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.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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