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From UP To Kerala, Will Our Leaders Ever Prioritise Women’s Safety Over Politics?

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TW: This article talks about rape, sexual assault, caste-based violence. 

India Unsafe: The Escalating heinous crimes against women indicate a sign of lawlessness and anarchy. 

On September 29, a 19-year-old Dalit woman died a fortnight after she was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district.

Amid the intense chaos due to the COVID-19 situation, India still ranks high when it comes to crimes against women. Whether it is domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, abduction or anything related to violence against women and girls, the loopholes in security can clearly be dug up.

I feel India hasn’t yet come out from the shock of the December 16 gang rape in Delhi, or the rape of the young girl in Jammu. India’s conscience can’t say an easy adieu to the 3-year-old girl child in Jharkhand, who was abducted from Tatanagar Railway station. She was sleeping beside her mother. The culprits abducted, raped and most brutally beheaded her. Later, the culprits themselves admitted to the crime. This incident happened in August 2019. Readers can try to understand the depth of each and every rape case that’s happening all the time. This article wants to give you further insights into the increasing crimes against women in India.

Death Of A Genius And Her Unfulfilled Dreams: Sudiksha Can You Rest In Peace?

Recently, 20-year-old Sudiksha, who had received a scholarship from Babson College in Massachusetts, United States, was murdered in a bike accident. She was riding pillion on a motorcycle with her younger brother, on her way to her maternal uncle’s home in Bulandshahr. A bike chased the siblings and she was harassed by them.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh Police seems to have converted the case into just an ‘accident’. Police officials say that Sudiksha and her younger brother were not wearing helmets. The police concluded that it was just a vehicular accident. However, Sudiksha’s family claimed that she was being ‘eve-teased’ by the two men who were chasing them.

Whom To Blame? 

Sudiksha was also a promising student. There is a distance of 35 to 40kms from her home in Gautham Buddh Nagar’s Dadri Tehsil to her maternal uncle’s home. If they were not wearing helmets and it was her minor brother who was riding the motorcycle, why did the traffic police not stop them anytime?  Also, if Sudiksha was being harassed by the men, why couldn’t the Women’s Commission and the police in the state take sufficient action against those criminals?

News outlets reported that Uttar Pradesh tops the list in crimes against women. Incidents of assault and molestation, psychological and physical assault against women in India are on a rise. Sudiksha’s uncle claimed that the harassment preceded the road accident. Her family also pointed out that the police and the higher authority weren’t cooperating with them, and did not provide an ambulance after her post mortem.

Image credit: Aasawari Kulkarni/Feminism In India

Sudiksha had big dreams. She wanted to be a successful entrepreneur. Can you predict the value of hardwork she put to get the scholarship? Where did we fail? Can we normalize the death of Sudiksha as just a loss to her own family? What is the point when a nation can’t provide security to the women in India? Why and why India can’t protect the youth?

Sudiksha, this country didn’t deserve you. She would be an inspirational figure for many hardworking students coming from middle-class and low-income families. But, this unfortunate incident may haunt them.

You can say only UP is not a safe place for women to live in, but let’s look at another case which happened in India.

Can Kerala Forget The Injustice Done To The Walayar Sisters?

On January 13, 2017, a minor girl in Palakkad district’s Walayar was found to have died by suicide at her home. 52 days later her 9-year-old younger sister was also found dead. The autopsy reports revealed that the girls had gone through sexual assault before their death. The accused persons are still roaming around freely. The Opposition parties and women’s movement criticised the police for biased investigation and for excessive political party interference in the subject. The accused were charged under the POCSO act for rape and abetting suicide. Most shockingly, the accused were acquitted.

Image source: Deccan Herald

The girls’ mother argued that they were under immense pressure to withdraw the case. Now, if you visit Kochi, you can see a sit-in-protest by Walayar minor girls’ mother. Several attempts were supposedly made to sabotage the case. Why has the Kerala police not been able to do an independent investigation without any political interference in the case?

The systematic exclusion of marginalized from the mainstream is clearly evident in the case. A mother is waiting for justice by using sit-in protest to wake up the authority. Why does everything have to have a political leaning in India? If Kerala can’t ensure justice to the minor girls there is no point in calling the state ‘God’s own Country’. In a state where marginalized women are not safe enough to live with their standard of living, how would we consider the state as ‘Fully Literate’?

The Palathayi Girl And Her Denied Childhood

The brutal incident, a 9-year-old minor survivor from Kerala’s Palathayi has been allegedly raped by her teacher Padmarajan triggered the entire state. The accused Padmarajan is a local BJP leader. What is more disturbing is that now the investigation is reportedly happening against the minor girl in the Kerala High Court. The investigating agency said that the child had a “tendency to tell lies”. In July, the accused got bail.

Even though rape is a non-bailable offence under Section 375 IPC, this alleged rapist seems to be playing the ‘victim’ card. If you feel amazed even for a moment, just remember that you live in India where a political party’s influence can be used as a weapon to normalize and dismiss rape. Applying corrupt politics on rape culture is like adding fuel to a fire. Can you imagine the psychological trauma that the minor girl would have gone through during these days? Society is using politics as a tool to decriminalize the real criminals.

In July a 3-year-old girl was abducted, raped and found dead in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri. On August 14 and August 25, two girls were found raped and dead in the same place. Reports say that in a span of 20 days, three rape-murder cases happened in the district. In one case the child was said to have been strangulated too. The three-year-old’s murder was said to be in response to rivalry. In India, women and girls are targeted to solve old rivalry.

India’s northern state, Rajasthan, also witnessed another brutal incident in April amid the chaos of the lockdown. A 3-year-old was found bleeding in Bharatpur district. The 20-year-old accused is still roaming scot-free even after the police had found him guilty.

Coming back to Southern India, in March another disgraceful incident took place. A 10-year-old girl was brutally raped and hurled to death from the terrace of a two-storey building in Chennai. Recently a former minister, Prajapathi, in Uttar Pradesh secured bail in a 2017 gang rape case. He had been in jail since 2017 and now got an interim two months bail from Allahabad court. A 40-year-old woman and her daughter had filed a complaint against him.

Aranmula COVID-19 Patient Rape Case

At a time when Kerala garnered praise for controlling COVID-19 cases, one shocking incident made a negative mark. A COVID-positive woman was raped by an ambulance driver on the way to the hospital. While dropping her to the hospital, he threatened her to not share the incident with anyone else.

Most importantly, every ambulance driver requires a clearance certificate to enter the job. The accused had not obtained a clearance system certificate from the GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) Pathanamthitta. The accused was carrying two women in the ambulance on that night. A middle-aged lady was dropped in Aranmula, and the 19-year-old was taken to Pandalam by him.

The woman reported the rape attempt to the health staff when she reached the hospital the next morning. She had also submitted crucial audio evidence against the accused, which became a turning point in the case. Later, the accused driver was arrested and removed from service.

Another political blame game occurred when K Surendran, the leader of BJP Kerala, criticised the Government for not taking legal action against the rapists in Kerala and said Kerala is a state where women are in danger. Ironically, this same leader did not utter a single word when the Palathayi rape case happened. The addition of political colour to sexual harassment against women in India is something that really needs to be checked.

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao: A ‘Savior’ Initiative Or A Soulless Promise?

In January 2015, the Indian Government launched the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) campaign, aiming for the welfare of girl child in India. Reports say that the campaign did help, to some extent, in the eradication of sex-selective abortions.

The ‘selfie with daughter’ hashtag was trending in 2015, following worldwide attention. Such initiatives are needed in a patriarchal society like India. But, the question is if the implementation of campaigns like BBBP works well in India’s rural and urban settings.

We cannot say the implementation is completely enough. What is the point of taking a selfie and posting it on social media if we aren’t able to ensure proper security to a girl child in India?

Representational image.

Campaigns like BBBP is necessary, but if we give the same amount of awareness to men about the increasing number of rape and harassment cases against women, that would be healthier. In Sudiksha’s case, India has lost a talented young student. Girls in India need effective security measures rather than a selfie contest campaign. Programs like BBBP should initiate schemes to overcome mental trauma that a rape survivor faces. Girl child protection schemes need to put a check on the tactical mixing up of politics and harassments.

A few days back, the news extensively spoke about how Kangana Ranaut, a leading Bollywood star, got Y-category security. The question is if, like her, will all women get the same amount of respect and security in India? If not, does privilege become a factor to decide a woman’s need for security?

We should take into consideration the situation of other women, especially those from marginalised backgrounds over here. The mainstream political parties should need to understand that if a crime against a woman takes place, that is not their time to make use of vote bank politics. India cannot prevent crimes against women if we’re politicizing the issue. What is the point of politicizing here? The proper implementation of women safety programs may help India in reducing the number of cases against women. The absence of law and order could lead to more insecurity of women safety in India.

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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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