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When The Language Of Hate Propagates Through Policy

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There is a lack of a wide range of opinions on topics these days. Everything has become a for or against debate. We don’t do measured arguments or counter-arguments. We are all just trolling anyone who tells us our perspective is wrong. It’s a strange ganging-up of political ideology which makes no sense to me personally. We used to be an anti-authority country with R.K. Laxman’s “The Common Man” and Mussaddi Lal of “Office-Office”. We used to know that politics in India is a drama performed for votes, while no real policy is implemented to benefit the average, middle-class Indian.

And it is absolutely true today as well. Even under the current government, we have repeatedly seen no real action but a lot of drama. The economic slowdown of the last five years has now become a total shutdown. All core industries are performing poorly and continue to be in huge losses while the government creates new territories and promises economic development at the backs of private players (who have no money for further investment). We see no social change and crimes inspired by misogyny and religious sentiments on the rise. Even the percentage of MPs elected with a criminal background have increased!

Our climate change problem has become so massive that the entire country is experiencing floods in literally every region, yet we hear about further clearances for projects given by departments created to protect our environment. Where is the progress that we have been promised again and again? What happened to India becoming a “superpower”? It is the same song and dance of “Vikas” over and over again.

So, I look at the language of our common people, and for sure the anti-authority sentiments have changed completely. We used to know “sarkar” was never good. But now we blindly trust our overlords. We feel pride in their empty speeches proclaiming the same vague ideas that many before them have filled stadiums with. Not a mention of actual action, strategy or result, yet we are so confident of their abilities. We used to understand that corruption existed in human nature, but now at the news of botched numbers and reports, we proudly blame “external foreign forces” for messing with our media. Meanwhile, not at all questioning how more than 80% of our “internal” media outlets in the country are owned by a single corporation at its head—the only corporation which announced further profits and investments at their latest AGM. We don’t question our political leader we like them for saying mean, hurtful things. We like them for their viciousness.

These words I see online, are now recognized across the globe as hate speech by the emerging right-wing. In the U.S., they are using “infestation” to refer to people of colour. How is it any different here, when we are using “pests”, “infestation” to refer to a group of people who are all Muslim? It baffles me how our people and media are using hashtags with Kashmir for “One India” as if the words “integration”, “assimilation” weren’t used by Nazi Germany to justify deaths of millions of innocent people. In the name of nationalism, we want to enforce on an incredibly diverse country, one single identity.

The culture of hero-worship has become so strong in India that we find justifications for why British colonialism was good! Some of our people have no reservations against joining white supremacy movements (when it is literally a racial movement against brown people). We think we can say, “snowflake”, “SJW bashing”, “virtue signalling” to people when those words and movements were created in a political environment which is not similar to ours and used to silence those supporting our brown identities. That is the shallowness of our current Janta’s (public’s) political understanding.

It is a farce when major journalism outlets join in, trying to shame opposition leaders by calling them “communal” for pointing out that Article 370 decision is motivated by religion. As if Hindutva leaders have not immediately come out and displayed their misogyny and bigotry at the announcement of the decision. There are infinite Hindutva supporters online who have openly posted several messages against Muslims. People are openly attacking Islam and even sharing threatening videos on platforms like Tik-Tok.

Most media outlets are interviewing only Kashmiri Pandits when they are seeking opinions. All the footage of “normalcy” are from Hindu dominated areas of Jammu and Srinagar. Hindu Brahmins are patently expressing their joy at the “victory” they have achieved. Instead of questioning the enforcement of a total lockdown, at the whim of only two national leaders, people are readily supporting “jailing” of opposing political leaders and journalists. This denial of addressing our Islamophobia has allowed a total breakdown of civil code and constitutional integrity for the first time in four decades. But now that the common man is missing from all this madness to make his observations, it seems a certain mania has taken over instead.

The language of hate is clear and very precise. It is motivated by the people in power no less. There is no scenario in which a state’s chief minister can make horrid misogynistic statements, without knowing he will not lose the support of the public. The janta is desensitized to all forms of violence. And if it does not wake up to its own prejudices, this hate will only continue to propagate through policy. Words are powerful; the pen is mightier than the sword for a reason. We need to pay attention to our words and their history.

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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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