This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Marina Abey Thomas. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Hyderabad: Yet Another Horrific Case, Yet Another Time We Fail As A Country

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This is not just the beginning of another week. Had it been one, Disha* of Hyderabad would now be on her way back home from her veterinary office. Which is exactly when she did in the evening on November 27, 2019.

Wrapping up her appointments for the day, she must have bid the rest of her colleagues and staff goodbye and wished them a happy weekend. She must have waited for the taxi which she had just booked to take her the toll plaza where she had parked her scooty and perhaps even called up the taxi driver and asked him to hurry, just like we do.

Sitting inside the cab, she must have called or texted her sister, informing her that she is now in the cab and will be home soon – a routine common amongst women, more so nowadays which feels more like a reflex action.

Reaching the toll plaza, she must have thanked the cab driver, paid her charge through an online medium and got out. Walking towards her scooty, she must have plugged in her earphones, listening to the latest song that just dropped from a new movie. She must have thought of a client who had bought their dog to the clinic, humming the same song earlier in the day. “Maybe my sister will like the song too,” Disha must have thought. All of this could have been a reality right now. But alas!

Neither is today just another weekday nor is Disha in this world.

Scenes from a protest outside Sardarjung Hospital in New Delhi, December 2012. (Photo: Ramesh Lalwani/Flickr)

The Cycle Of Grief

The point of this article is not to over emotionalise the story. I definitely do not know her personally and am not making assumptions about her daily life. But the fact that hits me the most is that she was close to my age and there was nothing, absolutely nothing that could have made her anticipate what happened to her.

When Nirbhaya passed away 7 years ago in this very same month, I was too young to aggrieve her death. Of course, I did understand the brutality of the crime but the sheer horror of it was too much for me to connect with it. Also, witnessing the anger of the country at that time, led me to believe that maybe finally the country has risen together against rape and will never tolerate it again.

But then, the Murthal incident happened. Then Kathua. Then Mandsaur, followed by several others whose memories have faded away with the passage of time.

But, the gang rape and death of Disha has struck a personal chord with me somewhere. Perhaps because I can relate so much more to her now, then a teenager me could have with a Nirbhaya.

I can put myself in Disha’s shoes as I too have gone through dire situations where I have trusted strangers for help. Being stranded in unknown roads and areas, in several of the cities I have resided, or travelled to, has not been an uncommon thing for me. But I was extremely lucky every time with good Samaritans coming to my rescue.

Disha was not.

The Road Ahead

But then again, we all know how this is going to go down, don’t we? The same candlelight vigils, screaming celebrities, political blame games, late judicial process and then… silence. The same thing will happen again, in another city, with another woman or girl child for the cycle to begin again.

So, what is the solution? The Rajya Sabha on Monday had all sorts of graphic ideas for deterring rape cases. From actress and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan demanding ‘mob lynching’ of rapists to DMK demanding chemical castration, the options presented by our esteemed Parliamentarians sounded more like an impromptu and childish jibe, rather than an actual deterrent.

The real win would be if this is a constant issue of debate between politicians and lawmakers and not just when rape is too brutal to make it to the headlines or when a government in power uses such cases to overshadow their certain shortcomings.

If for once, just for once, communal and national pride issues could take a backseat, and the basic topic of making the security of women a priority could be leveraged, that would be a real game-changer.

The politics of a country is only going to be as good as the public is. So the onus is on us to ask the leadership to take step towards putting rape cases on priority. I realise this is a very impractical aspiration to have. Saying “kuch nahi ho sakta” (nothing will change) is way easier than asking “kyun nahi ho sakta?” (why can’t we change); but, this is not an impossible dream to have, right?

Here’s hoping the next time we have this conversation it would be for a Disha who got rescued, and not because the country failed her.

*Name changed to protect the victim’s identity.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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