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The #MeToo Movement Exists Because A Survivor Of Gang-Rape Can Be Jailed In India

Illustration credit: Robin Chakraborty

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence, injustice. 

File an FIR if you are telling the truth. Why post on Social Media? Let the law take its course!” – Samaaj (Society)

The #MeToo movement is often criticised for being a social media trial. Many suggest that survivors of sexual violence should use the available legal framework to seek justice rather than making serious allegations against abusers and damaging their reputation on social media platforms. However, seeking justice using the existing legal framework is not as seamless as it is made to seem.

According to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, there were over 2.44 lakh cases pending in courts related to rape and the POCSO Act in India till December 2019. Not only is the pace of court proceedings exhausting, but survivors are also often subjected to humiliating statements by the police as well as the judiciary.

On June 23, Justice Krishna S. Dixit of the Karnataka High Court, while granting bail to a person accused of committing rape, said that the survivor did not react like she was raped. Commenting on her explanation that after the crime she was exhausted and fell asleep, Justice Dixit said that such behaviour was inappropriate for an Indian woman. However, the recent action by judicial magistrate, Md. Mustafa Shahi of Araria town, sets a new low and proves why several survivors of sexual violence do not choose the legal route for justice.

According to reports, on July 6, a 22-year-old woman of Araria, Bihar was raped by four men. The survivor filed an FIR with the help of her employer, Kalyani Badola, who is a member of the Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (a registered trade union of unorganised sector workers).

On July 10, the survivor was taken to the court to have her statement recorded where she was made to wait for 3 hours, for the judicial magistrate, in a hot and humid corridor that had no arrangements for people to sit. During this time, the survivor was just a few feet away from the man who had lured her and taken her to the perpetrators. His family had been trying to meet her and convince her to marry him. During these 4 days, she had repeated her story several times to the police, her identity was leaked by local media, and she had no access to a mental health professional.

Seeking justice using the existing legal framework is not as seamless as it is made to seem. Image credit: Aasawari Kulkarni/Feminism In India

After the survivor gave her statement, it was read out to her and she was asked to sign it. Due to a possible nervous breakdown, she got agitated and said that she did not understand what was read out, and insisted that she will not sign until Kalyani reads it. On the investigating officer’s intervention, she signed the statement.

The judicial magistrate called Kalyani and asked her why the survivor insisted on calling her. Kalyani and her colleague, Tanmay Nivedita, explained that if the survivor did not understand the statement, it should have been read out to her again. The judicial magistrate did not like the suggestion and handed over the survivor, Kalyani and Tanmay to the police.

An FIR was filed against all three of them under Section 353 (assault or criminal force to stop public servant from doing their duty), Section 228 (Attempting to insult and disturb judicial proceedings) of IPC and under Sections 188, 180, 120 (B) of the Contempt of Court Act. The three have been sent off to judicial custody in Dalsinghsarai Jail, 250 kms away from Araria, on July 11.

the four men accused of rape are still roaming free. Representational image.

An online campaign, created to urge the Chief Justice of Patna High Court to release the survivor and the two social-workers, states that she wanted the social-workers supporting her to be present during the proceedings, a request that the survivor is entitled to for moral support and strength, as per Justice Verma Committee Report.

The survivor’s request was perceived as a demonstration of a lack of faith or trust in the court or its proceedings. Such action is not only harmful in this case but sets a dangerous precedent of lapse of judicial accountability which will affect all other survivors of sexual assault and their support givers,” the campaign states. Meanwhile, the four men accused of rape are still roaming free.

Please sign this campaign requesting the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court to take cognisance of the matter and ensure the following:

  1. The immediate release of the survivor and activists, as well as quashing of all charges against them.
  2. A smooth and quick trial of the incident of gangrape so that the culprits are brought to book.
  3. Issuing of state-specific guidelines to ensure that there is a friendly and non-hostile environment in respect of rape/sexual assault cases in adherence to the recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission.

Lastly, before lecturing a survivor who has written a #MeToo post about using available legal provisions, remember that India had a conviction rate of only 27.2% in rape cases during 2018, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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