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We Need To Treat Not Just Domestic Violence, But Also Its Inter-generational Impact

While the world battles against one of the worst pandemics of modern times for quite a few months now, half of the world’s population has been battling another kind of crisis that has largely gone unnoticed. While we practice social distancing and stay home for the larger good, a large section of women globally have been confined in their homes with, what the experts call, “caged predators.” According to the latest reports of the WHO, there has been a 60% rise in emergency calls pertaining to domestic violence faced by women across Europe in the month of April as compared to last year.

As per the “Gender Equality and Addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Prevention, Protection and Response” report of UN Agency for Sexual and Reproductive Health (UNFPA), there would be 31 million more cases of domestic violence worldwide if such restrictions and stay-at-home orders are to continue for another six months.

Back home, as reported by The Hinduof the 800 complaints received on the online complaint portal of National Commission for Women (NCW) in the month of April, 40 % have been of domestic violence — the largest percentage of the total complaints in any month. This has prompted the NCW to launch a Whatsapp emergency number for victims of domestic violence to seek help amidst the pandemic.

“In general, domestic violence often increases during a crisis period and has been exacerbated multifold due to the containment measures and restrictions put in place to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus,” states Isabel Yordi, Technical Officer for Gender and Health with WHO Europe.

Clearly, domestic violence is a global issue transcending national boundaries, as well as socio-economic, cultural and class distinctions. It is so deeply-ingrained within the psyche and widely accepted part of our day-to-day lives that while the impact of the current pandemic on various aspects of our economic and social lives have been discussed, debated and studied extensively, the concerns of one half of the global population have largely gone unnoticed.

Domestic violence has much deeper repercussions than just direct physical abuse inflicted on women. It is also psychological and emotional violence while directly attacking the self-respect and self-esteem of women. It also undermines reproductive health, as well as psycho-social and emotional well-being of dependent children in the family.

According to a UNICEF Report Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children, children who witness domestic violence at home are at a greater risk of being violent themselves. There are higher chances of such violence becoming an intergenerational cycle. Not only are these children bereft of a sense of security, but also tend to normalise violence as an acceptable mode of conflict resolution. Domestic violence is thus perpetuated generation after generation. It is a violation of a fundamental human right.

Certainly, there are legal remedies and stringent laws against such violations. For instance, India has three laws that directly deal with domestic violence — the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (under which the act of domestic violence is related to non-fulfilment of dowry demands), and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. However, the access and implementation of these laws remains precarious. The reason for such appalling fallout is that legal recourse to a socio-psychological problem has always backfired.

No doubt, stringent laws do serve to prohibit such severe crimes, but that’s only treating the symptoms of an underlying problem. Even the prevalent laws and policies address merely the component of physical abuse while neglecting the psycho-social and inter-generational impact of domestic violence in such families. The long-term solution lies in targeting the root of the problem, which happens only when, besides making educational and work opportunities more accessible and affordable, we change the way we nurture our offspring.

The widely accepted notion, at a conscious as well as subconscious level, of inherent gender inequality has to be dismantled. This kind of gender inequality needs to be addressed right from childhood — the kind of toys we associate with gender, gendered dos and don’ts list, and most importantly, mutual respect and sensitivity training irrespective of gender.

Along with this, we need to incorporate psycho-social dimensions in laws, engage civil societies and communities, and address the plight of children impacted by domestic violence so as to break the chain of inter-generational transfer of violence.

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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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