5 Times The Supreme Court Was A Complete Badass In 2018

The year bygone has been a melting pot of sorts of heterogeneous opinions, emotions and reactions, for the land that took a lead in unveiling the tallest statue in the world… what a focused achievement that changed our lives, given that we also topped the charts with the highest number of undernourished children in the world!

Events that constituted the year invoked both angst and revelry, caused both relief and anxiety, and led to both jubilation and protests. What did, however, make even the unsurest of social media users share their internet-bequeathed knowhow of the turn of events, and to be fair, what also led to a progressive shift (finally) in India, were some of the landmark judgments of 2018 by the Supreme Court, some (unanimously-agreed-upon) reformative, some flustering, and some long overdue.

While it’s important we acknowledge these judgments because they symbolise the beginning of a productive change, one can’t help but ponder over the futility of the court’s precious time spent on adjudicating upon some issues, which should have ideally never been a bone of contention. Who we marry, who we choose to be with, how we choose to worship are some choices so personal that legal recourse in such matters is nothing short of irony. Having said that, credit must be given where it’s due, so here’s a list of some of our cherished judgements, basis which we felt the apex court triggered some social hope with its vision of what is fundamental, and how!

1. Decriminalising Sec 377 of IPC, because who you choose to have sex with is no one’s business but yours.

Bidding adieu to prejudices (as ex-Chief Justice of India, Deepak Misra pointedly stated), the Supreme Court on 6 September, lifted the age-old archaic ban on gay sex, thus decriminalizing Sec 377 of IPC. Pride colours of celebration lit up India, thanks to a verdict that should have ideally been a personal choice, bereft of any legal interference. The judgment was a milestone for India, none the less. What now needs to be ascertained over a period of time is, how much of a social impact this verdict has had on an otherwise profusely conservative mindset of a society that reeks of convention, stigma and log kya kahenge.

2. Sabarimala verdict, because women in the age bracket of 10 to 50 are NOT ‘impure’, whether they’re bleeding or not.

What was hailed as a milestone in the race to achieve gender equality, and, (much to the chagrin of women at large), opposed by the only female judge in the constitutional bench of 5 honourable justices of the Supreme Court, was the September 28 verdict, that allowed the entry of women between the ages 10 to 50 inside the Sabarimala temple of Kerala. Of course, ‘progress’, ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ are such hard-to-swallow pills for the majority of our country, that it came as no surprise when mindless protests condemning the verdict, ensued. But the fact that the legal machinery’s decision to finally disassociate the ‘stigma’ around period blood with the right to worship, was a cause for celebration (at least for some of us), just reinforces how much we need to catch up in the race of evolution.

3. Ban on online sale of firecrackers, and the permission to breathe better offline too… phew!

Kudos to the Supreme Court for taking our lungs into consideration, for how, would a severely asthmatic person like me even recollect and celebrate the propriety of these judgements, without the ability to breathe! On 23 October, right ahead of Diwali, the apex court banned the sale of firecrackers online, while allowed the sale of only ‘environment-friendly firecrackers’, which supposedly do not contain the harmful chemicals that cause air pollution. It also allowed fireworks only between 8 pm to 10 pm on the day of Diwali (like anyone cared). Of course, allowing only green crackers only mitigates the issue of ‘severely toxic air’, and the enthusiasm of our very law-abiding citizens only ensures terrible implementation. But at least a thought, rather proceeding, was spared to revamp Delhi/NCR’s atmosphere, which alone is a breath of fresh air… quite literally… well almost.

4. The Hadiya verdict, and right to marry the person of one’s own choice. Thank You!

Adding to the list of progressive judgments of 2018, was the Hadiya verdict, pronounced by Justice Chandrachud, the Judge of the year we’ve all been collectively crushing on. The order of the Kerala High Court, which invalidated the marriage of Hadiya and Shefin Jahan, was set aside in April by the Supreme Court, which aptly stated that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution”. Earnestly hoping that this judgment manages to trigger positive changes in the social mindset too, to accept what frankly is too personal to even allow social mindset to butt in.

5. Live-streaming of Supreme Court Proceedings, because WHY NOT?

‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant’, and I suppose so is transparency for a democracy which is on the verge of being a ‘democracy-no more’. Justice Misra stated the former, and thus, pushing for greater accountability and trust in the judicial system, the Supreme Court on 26 September, decided in favour of live streaming of court cases, finally taking into consideration the petition, that those affected by a judgment should be aware of the proceedings that adjudicated for or against them, which, frankly, is only fair.

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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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