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Who Are We To Discuss Safoora Zargar’s Personal Life?

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“Women”—this word doesn’t just signify a gender, but it also signify sufferings, harassment, etc. which has been happening to them for ages. The society has reserved certain roles and behaviours for them. These include cooking food, taking care of children, remaining illiterate and unemployed, following commands of husband/ boyfriend/ father/ brother, etc., keeping the house clean, eating after men, wearing full-length clothes, etc. Whenever a woman does something out of this ‘zone‘, she is called a slut, whore, r@nd!, characterless and what not!

The same thing happened with a PhD scholar at Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) University, Safoora Zargar. She was arrested three weeks age, and she is three-months pregnant. She has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)—why? For protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Wow! In ‘New India’, people get arrested for exercising their fundamental right of speech and expression!

Now, some people would say: she is a terrorist, why shouldn’t she get arrested? To them, my answer is, first of all, whether or not she is a terrorist would be decided by the court. We cannot decide who did what. And, there is a rule that a person must be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Until then, they are considered innocent. But, if you are blinded by bigotry and hatred, you will not pay attention to these rules also.

Right now she is just an accused. In our criminal justice system, there is a rule “Bail not Jail”. That means jail is an exceptional case. The fact of a woman’s pregnancy and the COVID-19 pandemic, and that too when there is a lockdown, did not satisfy the authorities to provide her bail!

What was the need to charge anti-CAA protestors under UAPA? Even if, for a second, we accept that was “necessary” and their acts were harmful to the “Integrity and Sovereignty of India”, why was it not applied to BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who gave provocative speech in Delhi and posted hateful tweets? Why was it not applied to the Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, who said “Desh ke Gaddaron ko” and the crowd completed the sentence by saying “Goli Maaron Saalon ko”? Why was it not applied to the crowds who chanted similar slogans? Why is the police being selective? Why, on the face of it, it looks like a targeted harassment of just one religion?

The worst part is, there has been a targeted harassment against Safoora Zargar. #SafooraZargar is one of the worst hashtags I have ever seen. The tweets are just disgusting. I cannot describe it in words because there is no word in dictionary which will give us an idea about their mentality. It would be better if you will see it yourself:

 

The last one is casteist as well!

Is there anything cheaper and dirtier than this? They have crossed all the limits.

SHE IS MARRIED. But, does it even matter if she is married or unmarried? Why can’t a girl carry a child outside marriage? Is there any law which says that she can’t do it? Then, why are people bothered about her personal life?

Some even went to the extent of saying that if she was pregnant, why was she taking part in protests? If she can take part in protests, why can’t live in a jail in her pregnancy? People who asked this are the weakest people on earth. They are beyond repair.

Why do women always need to prove that they are right? We all know what happened in Ramayana with Goddess Sita. We all know what people of Ayodhya did. This proves, it’s not about the dress or her behaviour. It’s about their mentality towards women. Sita didn’t wear short clothes, consumed liquor, took part in protests or raised questions to a political party, then why did she go through all that?

Ironically, those who are harassing Safoora are the boys who really sympathize with Sita. What’s the difference between these boys and those people of Ayodhya?

But, a boy in a random video was successful in bringing whataboutery in this argument also. He saidNobody says anything to women. Sure, the guys should be whatever… Try be more like Sita, cover yourself a bit, and don’t dress like a ho (a prostitute) and maybe you won’t be treated like a ho.

After watching that video, seriously, my thoughts were, “Ooo Bhai, maaro mujhe maaro!

This was happening at the same time when #BoisLockerRoom was also trending. And, most of the boys who trolled Safoora are also the boys who wrote “not all men”, “But girls also do this”, “Fake Cases”, etc. in response to #BoisLockerRoom.

Why do they bring up these issues only when girls start a movement—why not before or independent of it? This whataboutery only shows that they just want to suppress women’s movement, distract others and cover up/justify their disgusting acts. Problems exist, but is it the right way to bring it up? Bring it independently, and I believe every girl will be happy to support boys.

Also, most of the boys who trolled Safoora were affiliated to one political party and one ideology. This can’t be a coincidence. This shows there is something really wrong with their institutional upbringing, and somewhere or the other, they are encouraged by the leaders of that party as well because a lot of them follow most of these abusive handles. I don’t want to name names because it is pretty obvious, which person, which party and which ideology.

Basically, in Safoora’s case, two lethal things— rape culture and bigotry combined together to form a lethal combination.

Featured image credits: Impulsive Info.

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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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