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Dear Hon’ble SC, Democracies Are Not Strengthened By Mellowing Down Dissent

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How can we assess and evaluate the maintenance and functioning of any democracy around believing it to be just and representative of people’s faith and belief under any given situation and circumstances? For the efficient and effective conduct of democracy, it is but important to have a distinct set of opinions, ideas and viewpoints for it to offer us a sharp and critical insight into the performance of democracy.

Democracies, where the dissenting voices of the people are crushed nailed, doubted and suppressed can never qualify to be healthy; at best, they are symptomatic of being caged and quarantined denying the existence of basic civil rights to its citizens.

Recently, in Beirut and Belarus, thousands of ordinary citizens marched on the streets demanding better civic guarantees from the state by calling for extraordinary measures to overhaul the systems of political and administrative controls. Calling for sustained and systematic reforms impacting and influencing the presence and participation of the laities in the spheres of policy-making and legislative implementation assigning and instilling a sense of responsibility and pride.

The spread of Corona pandemic has purposively boosted the calibre and capacity of the state viz physical prowess and coercive control demanding meek submission, loyalty and obedience under a farce of insular and exclusionary nationalism, resulting in abuse and violation of all kinds of rights and freedoms. Alarming a disquiet and dissatisfaction amongst the vast stretch of the population, irrespective of the size and geography, as the very basis of our individual existence has been put under strict surveillance constantly reminding us of our rank and position in the material hierarchy.

Authoritarianism and autocracy have been intertwined as principles of populism, perception building and rhetorics in securing and safeguarding the interests and objectives of the dominant ruling cliques under any given political order. India is no exception either where the robustness of the democracy has long been altered and compromised to the ideological whims and fancies of the ruling dispensation tossing and tailing the rights and liberties of the ordinary serving citizens with the administrations of control being personalized.

Judiciary has and continues to suffer from the shock and setback making arrangements and adjustments in the fairness of justice delivery as courts are considered to be the last bastions defending the constitutional privileges of any legitimate citizen of the country. I, remember how in January 2018 four senior-most judges of Supreme Court including former Chief Justice of India had aired their reservations on the setting of the hearing benches in the court and how it was tantamount to the health and practice of democracy.

Late Arun Jaitely had once said in the Parliament how post-retirement benefits play a lead in the court rulings and judgements by the topmost judges of High Court and Supreme Court. Maybe, if we were to go by the merits of Mr Jaitely’s arguments than we will be able, to sum up, the contempt of court proceedings against eminent lawyer and human rights activist Shri Prashant Bhushan.

The latter was charged with offensive tweets against the current sitting Chief Justice of India Shri Sharad Arvind Bobde who was seen riding a fancy sportbike in Nagpur belonging to a local BJP leader, as per Mr Bhushan’s tweet. Was the apex court forced to take up this matter?

I don’t understand the urgency as this was purely Mr Bhushan’s personal opinion and reflections. How does it at all denigrates the office and institution of Chief Justice of India and if it does, then why the action in the earlier instances of said opinions and statements against the performance of judiciary was not undertaken and for what reasons. Although, Prashant Bhushan should have been a bit careful with his choice and selection of words, what kind of disrepute and disobedience has it brought in that the Supreme Court swung into action asking Mr Bhushan to respond for his actions by initiating contempt proceedings?

Mr Bhushan is a responsible and sensible person and is acutely familiar with what invites contempt in the first place and, hence, the court should have cast another look into its actions and decisions before arriving at any inference. This kind of hurry and haste in Prashant Bhushan’s matter has really made the perception of the Supreme Court tinier in the eyes of the law-abiding citizens. This is so because the court has been made to call it a draw after Bhushan has made his intentions loud and clear by remaining unapologetic with what he said and did.

Considerably, he has been receiving huge rounds of admiration and appreciation from people all around as democracies can never be strengthened by mellowing down dissent. We will have to understand and acknowledge this fact if we want to stay relevant as a distinguished Republic.

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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, 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.

Bidisha was selected in’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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