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#BlackLivesMatter: We Cannot End Racism With Just Laws

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Protestors listen to speeches from atop a baseball backstop during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Saturday. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In the reading, Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism and Anti-Semitism Became makers of Insanity, it says “Let’s not avoid responsibility. Let’s make sure people who say evil things, who do evil things, who believe evil things, have to take responsibility.”

George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck, for nearly seven minutes, despite Floyd repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.” Floyd was arrested after he was allegedly accused of buying cigarettes with counterfeit $20 bill.

Death is certain and inevitable, but I am anguished, angry, and ashamed to see the way the white police officer has killed George Floyd. The investigation is still going on, and four policemen have been fired and the officer who pinned him to the ground has been charged with third-degree murder, but that is not enough, and not enough to eradicate racism from our society, and from the world.

The National association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) called the incident “People Lynching without Rope.”

Every individual is different in this world and we differentiate every individual on the basis of religions, caste, creed, race, colour, certain ethnic groups, region, or sexual orientation, but that does not mean that we would have to hate each other. We don’t have to forget the fact that we all are humans and we all are connected with each other with the thread of humanity. All human beings belong to a single species and we all are equal and we all have equal rights to live with dignity.

In the era of violence and hate, we are not giving importance to human rights and, therefore, I feel we end up indirectly promoting racism or we are becoming racist. Racism may be defined as the hatred of one person by another or the belief that another person is less than human because of skin colour, language, customs, place of birth, or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person.

It is significant to mention here that the first International Human Rights instrument, developed by the United Nations (UN), was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

The UDHR recognises that if people are to be treated with dignity, they require economic rights, social rights, including education, and the rights to culture and political participation and civil liberty. It further states that everyone is entitled to these rights “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, birth or other status.”

Although the UN does not define ‘racism’, however, it does define “racial discrimination.” According to the 1965 UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, The term ‘racial discrimination’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

It is also important to note that in 1978, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (Article 1), the UN states, “All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock. They are born equal in dignity and rights and all form an integral part of humanity.

It’s not only about George Floyd because there is no doubt about the fact that we are not ready to give respect to individuals who are not from our groups. We want to hate them. We are promoting violence. We are not ready to accept others as the way they are.

The white police officer who killed George was also human. He could listen when George was crying. He could hear “I can’t breathe.” But he didn’t really listen to anything. It’s about mindset against Black people in America.

A Washington Post database showed that African-Americans were 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than white people.

Even in India, despite having laws and rights in the Constitution, we can see the cases of attack on people from the North-East, discrimination on the basis religion, gender, caste, and more. And also incidents of mob lynching by dominant groups and individuals upon people from minority communities.

It is pertinent to mention that Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees that all people shall be equally protected by the laws of the country. Article 15 of the Constitution states that no citizen of India shall be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 16 of the Constitution lays down that the State cannot discriminate against the citizen in the matters of employment. Article 17 of the constitution abolishes the practice of untouchability. The practice of untouchability is an offence and anyone doing so is punishable by law.

We have to understand that we cannot end attacks by racists just by enacting and implementing laws. We have to promote human rights. We have to teach the individual to give respect to each soul. We have to feel the pain. We don’t have to promote hate. We have to promote peace and humanity.

Police react to demonstrators near the White House on May 31. Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

I am happy to see that after George video went viral on social media platforms, people from the world protesting against attack and racism. People from America, London, Germany, Berlin, Italy, India, are protesting by saying that “Black Lives Matters,”Say his Name,”I Can’t Breathe,”Stop Killing Black People,” and “My Skin Color Should not be my Death Sentence.”

Let’s spread the message of love instead of hate. Let’s promote peace instead of violence. Let’s be human instead of racists. We all are humans and we all are equal, and that is why we should and we have to think before hurting someone. Let’s take our responsibility as humans. Let’s stop discrimination, in any form, or in any manner.

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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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