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In The 21st Century, Access To The Internet Is A Fundamental Human Right

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A resource is classified as a basic necessity when the existence of human beings is fundamentally based on its access. The utility of such a resource becomes a part of their everyday existence, where they require it for their basic survival in the natural world, and also to develop their individual personality to the fullest.

Based on this classical notion of importance for human existence, political theorists and philosophers have classified various resources as fundamental rights or an entity which could be classified as an added luxury to make life easier.

This is what fundamentally classifies right to free air, water, education, equality in various social domains as fundamental rights while classifying services like banking, transportation, entertainment as luxurious entities. The right to economically exploit a resource or entity is basically governed by this moral principle.

When the internet was developed in the 1980s, it was seen as a medium to facilitate the exchange of information at a global level. Communication from person to person in 1980s transformed into a person to mass/mass to mass/government to mass/individual to a government entity with the rapid development in the internet technology.

Though we have had mediums of mass communication since historic times like books, newspapers, posters, radios, television, etcetera, humanity had never possessed a technology which would have enabled the flow of information throughout various social domains at such unique and individualistic levels.

From a tool of communication, the internet transformed into a tool of enlightenment. By the second decade of the 21st century, all the basic services which enabled an individual to function in the modern world were based around the ecosystem of the internet. It was no longer classified as ‘internet’ but was used with new terminology as the ‘Internet of Things.’

To develop an individual into a good Samaritan, access to the internet was seen as a vital commodity which could make that social transformation of an individual easier by encompassing social services of the government around the internet. One must remember that it is the duty of every government; democratic or autocratic, presidential or parliamentary; to provide its citizens with basic rights through which they could develop into a better individual in their own personal space.

As mentioned from the times of Plato and Aristotle, the biggest challenge faced by every form of State in the world was on how to translate basic social services to each and all on an equal basis. This was answered with the solutions provided by the Internet of Things.

Access to education was no longer a mass-based entity, as one could learn at their own convenience within their own personal space. Healthcare was a chief social concern as it was accessible only to a few who could afford it, and also because of its logistical constraint. However, this could now be provided at mass access to all.

Governmental services, which were burdened and subdued under the weight of bureaucracy, could now be provided in a simplistic manner to any citizen on their enquiry and convenience. Economic services like banking, retail consumerism, trading, leisure activities and services; all had the internet as the common basic infrastructure on which their growth was dependent in modern times.

The internet made the involvement of masses in the everyday decision-making process of their own governance possible, and also provided continuous feedback to the government which till now was only been understood through the outcome of an electoral process.

The rise of social media services like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp made our citizens more informed about their rights, surroundings, social circles and gave them a medium to express their opinions. Opinions were not only being expressed but also being heard by the organs of the State who acted accordingly on the feedback they received.

In summary, the internet has led to true democracy in the 21st-century world.

Hence, it would be unfair to let such a medium with such mammoth potential to be under the control of commercial entities. The issues of net neutrality, as well as access to fast internet, shouldn’t be determined by what one is willing to pay but on its merit on what one can achieve through its undiluted access. Net neutrality should be seen at par with the democratic rights of equality for all. While access to high-speed internet should be seen at par with the entity of justice, that is, justice delayed is justice denied.

As one cannot charge an individual for access to free air, as one can not charge an individual for the right to drink water, one should not be allowed to charge an individual for the right to have access to the internet.

Governments need to come forward and reach a consensus regarding their decision on the internet as a resource out of reach for commercial enterprises and unlock it equally to all. This would mean nationalising all internet services, which would be seen anti-liberal and communistic in approach, but we need to remember that the main idea behind the concept of State and the ideal goal of government is not to earn profit but to make lives of citizens harmonious.

Yes, costs have been incurred to develop the technology to its present form, and yes, making it free for all wouldn’t provide any more incentives to develop it, but strategies could be formulated to facilitate this transformation. If the world can come together to invest billions of dollars to save the environment, which is of negative economic potential (no profit to be generated) but of positive social consequences (that of saving humanity’s future); the world should also come forward to declare the internet as a fundamental right and make it free for all.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
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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.

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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.

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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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