This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Arsh K.S. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How To Stay Safe In The Digital Age And Today’s Political Climate

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Privacy. A buzzword in our digital age, where we barely pass a day without sharing some aspect of our tastes, political leanings, or our declarations on social media. If nothing else we advertise what we consume as information by subscribing to sources like YouTube channels, news portals, blogs, and more.

On August 24, 2017, the Supreme Court of India declared that privacy is a fundamental right of each of the nation’s 1.3 billion citizens, protected by the Constitution. This judgement was of significant import, coming a year after the Aadhar Act. On March 11, 2016, the Aadhar Act was passed in the Lok Sabha to introduce unique identity cards bearing the biometric details of citizens. Many argued that this would facilitate the delivery of subsidies, benefits and other services to eligible folk. Soon, however, credit card companies and telecom service providers started asking for Aadhar cards while registering accounts. Objections to such practices were raised on the grounds of privacy. The principal concern was that Aadhar cards could function as a means for government surveillance. For now, such a possibility has been curtailed thanks to the Privacy judgement by India’s apex judicial institution.

Privacy, however, is not merely a judicio-legal concern. Most of us, as citizens, have families, go to work, and live in homes. These boundaries in themselves codify, in many ways, what is thought to be acceptable in public and private. In an age where instant messaging seems to be the predominant medium of casual communication, it is not surprising that intimacy has been further removed from the public sphere. This may be a matter of convenience at one level but is not untouched by the fact that Indian society has been, and is, largely conservative. Think about it — you live in a world where you can reach just about anyone, anywhere, by tapping your fingers on a screen. Potentially, we have never been closer together.

So what makes us so aloof? One possible explanation is the increased mobility of our labour force. It means that people often shift jobs and cities more frequently than they did in the past. This prevents us from forming roots in a place. The upside, of course, is higher cultural transmissions between people and places. But what I want to discuss, however, is how we relate to the concept of privacy at an individual level.

Today, employers are scanning social media accounts to get a sense of the psychological profile of potential employees. Matchmaking services do the same, and even Facebook suggests profiles to users based on shared interests. In our effort to preserve, perhaps, an old-fashioned notion of privacy, are we missing the bus to alterity?

I think the response by many English-speaking people in India to the results of the 2019 general elections is symptomatic of this. There was a sense of shock when the exit polls predicted a BJP victory. Arguments were quickly made as to how exit polls were wrong before. Then when the counting started, the reality of the situation began to sink in. How is it that perhaps the most ‘educated’ section of the populace was so far off the mark when it came to reading the electoral mood of the demography? Was it perhaps because they were insulated by the sentiments of the populace in their echo chambers? All reasonable evidence points to such a hypothesis.

There is an analogy to be drawn here between the present Modi government and their latest invented nemesis replacing the ‘anti-national’ with the so-called ‘Khan Market gang’. As coteries, they both seem to be certain as to whom they represent.

The BJP is the political platform for propagating the ideology of Hindutva.

The Khan Market gang is the mouthpiece of the liberal literati (which for better or worse, in this country, also functions as tabloid journalists.)

The BJP government, in its classic fascist mode, has to invent an enemy continually, be it the Muslim, the Communist, the Christian, the Pakistani, and what have you. Its popularity seems to be premised on a permanent ideological war with these very ‘enemies’ (minorities).

The Khan Market Gang symbolise the very kind of elitism that has driven the global upsurge to vote populist leaders into power. An ‘outsider’ like Trump in Washington; an alleged ‘chaiwallah’ like Modi in Delhi. Any proper dialectical analysis must include the co-dependence between these self-proclaimed adversaries. The inner circle of elites in one corner. In the other, the countryside blood and soil nationalism shorn of any pretence to sophistication.

Both sides derive their legitimacy by discrediting the other. Such is the polarisation that afflicts India (and perhaps the world?).

right wing India

At face value, it would be easy to mistake the dichotomy presented above in the language of orthodox Marxism, in terms of the opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. One may even generalise the situation by saying that this prevailing populism is reflective of global tendencies at large. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has gone as far as to suggest that the possibility of the emergence of Bernie Sanders appeared because of Trump, who was the violent injunction into the liberal consensus. There may be a degree of poetic and sentimental truth to this. The liberal establishment required shock treatment to redirect itself to the reality of antagonisms. Peripheries had been ordered too precisely, be it the attritional war on the West Bank, Kashmir, or the Middle East. The anti-thesis needed to emerge from within, and the cunning of history found in figures such as Trump and Modi, the vehicle needed to shake up the liberal consensus.

As simplistic as such an analysis, maybe it is the only hypothesis that explains the corollaries noticed between populist right-wing movements the world over. The question now becomes one of consolidation for the right, but for the left—we need to re-think our blueprint for what liberal institutions are to be allowed to become. Privacy, I think is one such front where this antagonism will be played out.

In principle, I don’t favour privacy. But please don’t misunderstand me. I am even less in favour of the State monitoring of our lives. The institution of privacy, however, as upheld by the apex court of India (and many others) is built to re-enforce the idea of private property in its guise of restricting the possible uses to which information can be put to. I make this statement well aware of the kind of regressive propaganda in circulation. Intimate videos are tools for character assassinations. I believe the only way we will overcome such childish malpractices is through content. Everything from love letters, pornographic videos (possibly the most prevalent form of media on the internet) and more must become ubiquitous to the point where they no longer have the power to shock.

It is essential to consider what complete informational access may enable in the public sphere. Research would not have to be curated by individuals claiming to be the sole representatives of an idea, movement, or institution. Advertising companies may have the necessary information to show me products I would desire (we are already moving in this direction). And arguments in court would be able to draw on data that may have been earlier unavailable to the public domain. On the whole, I think such a step would rejuvenate the resources of the commons, which, for centuries, have been appropriated by private entities from enclosure movements to copyright laws.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that certain strategic information, such as the location of missiles and nuclear launch codes, cannot just be made available to the public. But if we are ever going to live in a world that does not need for these, it would be a world where we do not fear the other, where we do not fear ourselves. Knowledge regarding who we are is the surest medicine to cure prejudices borne out of ignorance. It would create a more open and accepting society that is willing to confront each other as they truly are.

Think about it this way — you trust your bank with your financial activity, your government with administrative functioning, your hospital with your health, and your internet provider with your browsing history. If we are willing to trust institutions with our very lives, then why can we not open up to each other? This does not even seem to be a radical step to me.

Women trolled online

To avoid becoming a victim of online crime, you don’t need to be a computer expert. Developing a few good online habits dramatically reduces your chances of becoming a victim of cyber-crime, makes you less vulnerable, and lets you use the web safely.

Here are a few tips to stay safe on social media:

Password

The longer it is, the stronger and more secure it will be.
Use a different password for each of your social media accounts.
Set up your security answers. And if you have social media apps on your phone, be sure to password protect your device.

Friends

Be selective with friend requests. If you don’t know the person, don’t accept their request.  It could be a fake account. Even with known friends, click links with caution. Social media accounts are regularly hacked. Look out for language or content that does not sound like something your friend would post.

Privacy

Be careful about what you share. Don’t reveal sensitive personal information like your home address, financial information, or phone number. Become familiar with the privacy policies of the social media channels you use and customize your privacy settings to control who sees what.

More Safety Measures

Protect your computer by installing antivirus software to safeguard your data. Also, keep your system updated.

Finally, remember to log off when you’re done.

We can minimize the threat of cyber attacks or cybercrime by being conscious while using social media platforms. It is possible to ensure the security of your personal data of those social media platforms with a very minimal effort. It is also suggested to avoid sharing information about your debit or credit card over these social media networks to prevent credit/debit card fraud, as well.

Be vigilant. And you can avoid half these cyber issues.

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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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