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Freedom Of Speech In India Is A Balanced Affair. Yes, Pun Intended.

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I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity. I am here, therefore, to cheerfully submit to any penalty that can lawfully be inflicted upon me for what the Court has determined to be an offence, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.

With the above words, Prashant Bhushan ended his statement in front of the Honorable Supreme Court. Can our ‘independent’ judiciary not take criticism on its working? So, here’s my take on the status of freedom of speech in our country.

Is It Really Free? Sadly, NO.

We have the right to wonderful discourse. We reserve the privilege to be social, strict and social conversationalists. Anything past that is culpable one way or the other, or as Indians decide to stated, reasonable limitations. One wrong interpretation and the outcomes can differ from being basically trolled, manhandled and fatwa-ed to being genuinely assaulted or slaughtered. Furthermore, after you are through that alive, you will in all probability be captured and accused of suppositions and inciting disharmony. There is sufficient measure of laws set up to menace non-traditionalists of any sort to quietness.

Most Indians don’t comprehend what ‘free speech’ or a ‘right’ is in any case, and that incorporates educated, white-collar class Indians. They don’t take a lot of confidence in equitable qualities in any case and many – maybe a noteworthy larger part – would joyfully exchange vote-based system for a solid dictator pioneer who they accept will return their nation to some legendary brilliant period.

India is a very uncertain and injured development, experiencing solid casualty mind-boggling, living with a confounded personality. Accordingly, its kin is amazingly sensitive and overcompensate to the smallest of insults. Also, this is deteriorating with the ascent of patriotism, not that it was vastly improved before.

The idea of ‘common right’ or ‘unavoidable right’ is profoundly strange to India and the greater part of Eastern progress. We are ‘respect’ based social orders where a person’s direct and life decisions are directed, checked and policed by the system. In such social orders, you are not being deferential enough except if you let others direct and blue pencil you. That is the explanation, for instance, Hindus feel disregarded and assaulted when an irregular obscure individual eats hamburger in the protection of his home and consider it fit and just to rebuff him.

That is the explanation of why village heads/Panchayats get frantic at individuals, who happen to be consenting grown-ups when they wed outside their standing or religion. People exist just as a piece of a square, a faction, and rights are ‘allowed’ to the individual, and can be removed, by the desire of the family, as opposed to being available normally and innately. In these social orders, anything that slightly injuries the ‘respect’ of a high positioning individual or a family or a network is viewed as grave wrongdoing. It is upon that individual or network to fight back forcefully and retaliate for the shame, regardless of whether that implies going to prison. Not doing so is viewed as weakness and shortcoming.

In western human advancement, it’s precisely the inverse. Getting rough over trivial abuse is really observed as an ethical shortcoming instead of an indication of solidarity or masculinity. Western human progress gives the most extreme significance to singular freedom and rule of law. The state is limited from characterizing what is good or standard or worthy. The privileges of an individual can’t be separated by the group may.

In this way, the western, particularly American, meaning of free articulation, for the most part, blocks the option to outrage, challenge and disparage even the most profoundly held convictions and images, as long as it’s peaceful. ‘Incitement’ isn’t viewed as a reason for retaliatory savagery, and accordingly not an offence (not at all like here, where we have a few laws that condemn ‘offending assumptions’ or scorn of court or abuse to strict figures). Very inverse to ‘respect’ based social orders, not getting incited to viciousness is viewed as ethically and lawfully occupant. Each intellectually solid individual is thought to be fit for restraint, objective decisions and settling on cognizant choices and accordingly are considered responsible for their own activities.

From a verifiable point of view, YES

On the off chance that we didn’t have the opportunity of speech, there wouldn’t have been numerous religions, societies, belief systems living in a similar area incongruity. Resilience is one of the significant perspectives that kept the British sneaking in the locale and later drove them to increase total matchless quality. Consequently, the opportunity of articulation can be valuable in commending the assorted variety and suggesting the guideline of congruity among the individuals. While it can likewise prompt dictatorial standard and undesirable suppression, enduring given that it isn’t held under control.

With present-day contemporary pertinence, freedom of speech is revered by the constitution creators and discovers place as a principal right. With the status of being known as a fundamental right, it has been agreed most extreme significance and structures the foundation of fundamental standards that the authors of the constitution cherished. While it gives the privilege of this freedom of speech, there is a trick of ‘sensible limitations’, that restrict the abuse and abuse of this opportunity.

The sensible limitation can be a type of option to document instances of criminal criticism, whereby the wronged party can record a body of evidence against the substance on the explanation of abusing his opportunity of articulation to criticize and insult the bothered party. It is a case of limitation to control the freedom of speech. Regarding media viz frequently hailed as the fourth mainstay of democracy, it has seen developing concerns where this freedom of speech is addressed in a subjective way and regularly shortened through totalitarian.

Majority rule government cherishes the voice of the general population to be heard. It runs on the fuel of dispute, balanced governance to keep the administration rational. This voice of dispute is currently being abridged in the attire of hyper patriotism. The freedom of speech is most likely confronting another character emergency and should be checked in any case the incumbency may show its ability and toss India again in the tumult of alliance legislative issues like in the 1980s and mid-2000s.

Media houses have become kangaroo courts, shooting matches, one-sided, hair raising sensationalist reporting. Paid media with innate predispositions is definitely not particular to India, it is an overall test and should be handled through a capable and imaginative authority to safeguard all areas of society with no separation.

In this manner, freedom of speech is a sensitive balance which is continually evolving. It is experiencing a transformation all through its lifetime with no consistent. This degree of balance is distinctive for various nations. It involves a relative understanding to check if the opportunity of articulation exists in India or not. Everything involves relative translation.

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Is the 'Freedom of Speech' in India a balanced affair?

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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