Curbing Violence Against Women In India Is Not Just The Govt’s Responsibility

NYP logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of a campaign by UN Volunteers and Youth Ki Awaaz, celebrating the phenomenal work being done by young change makers selected for the National Youth Parliament. The National Youth Parliament is a district, state and national level series of sessions aiming to strengthen the roots of democracy by involving and familiarising young people with parliamentary processes.

There is not a single day that goes by when we do not see in the news any reported incident of crime against women. In 2018, a large-scale international survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, one of the biggest news organizations in the world ranked India as the most dangerous country for women.

Image for representation only. Via Getty

Crimes against women―domestic violence, dowry, rape, marital rape, infanticide, acid attacks, and other such incidents—have become a common feature of our society. Whatever people say is being done to end these problems is clearly not enough! This is what motivated me, or more precisely, unlocked my urge to start championing the cause of women’s rights and safety.

Reading reports by the National Crime Records Bureau of India, I found that West Bengal always ranked high among states (in fact it ranked number 1 in 2017) when it comes to total crimes committed against women in a calendar year. What was going wrong in my state? Why was the security apparatus failing year after year? Was it the police or the law and order system that was at fault? Was social construction at the root of the problem? What new ways could be adopted to end the violence?

Ujan Natik at the National Youth Parliament 2018.

All these questions rushed to my mind when I was working with the Women’s Commission of West Bengal Government. In the Women’s Commission of West Bengal, I worked as a research assistant to the Chairperson of Commission. My work involved giving him detailed inputs and statistics about the various issues that the Commission was dealing with, such as dowry, domestic violence, and more particularly, acid attack.

The first thing I learned was that we only get to know about those crimes against women which are reported in the media or to the police or any NGO. However, most women who are victims of abuse, violence, or any other type of crime, do not even report the incidents. Human Rights Law Network have revealed that the actual number of acid attack cases in India is very likely to exceed 1000 per year. However, according to the official annual report “Crime In India” by the National Crime Records Bureau, this number is around 200 per year, which clearly goes on to show that most women do not even report these incidents to the police.

This happens mostly due to family pressure and social taboo—if people get to know, it is a survivor of violence whose image will be damaged. As a result, we don’t even know the real number of crimes against women that are taking place in West Bengal, forget India.

The second thing I learned while researching on acid attacks was that we, the common people or India, are the real guilty party. We are the primary reason why such attacks are still taking place. The Government of India has put a nation-wide ban on the over-the-counter purchase of several corrosive and harmful acids from shops for “domestic use”. However, the common people of this country continue to purchase harmful corrosive acids from local stores all over India. Doesn’t this effectively render the ban useless? Acid attacks on women can only be stopped when the circulation of acid is stopped.

To end these problems, I have decided to dedicate more of my time to working on women’s rights and women’s security. The time has come for young people to act; act for change and become a nation of doers, of hard workers. And that would be my advice to like-minded young people: be the lamp, guide the way and other people will join your crusade for change.

About the author: Ujan Natik is 21 years of age, belonging from South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Currently, Ujan is pursuing a Master’s in Political Science and International Relations from Jadavpur University. Ujan is also an active volunteer of the National Service Scheme and dreams of becoming a Professor in the field of International Relations. Last year, he was among 10 candidates shortlisted for the National Youth Parliament organised by UN Volunteers and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. 

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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, 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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