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When Will The Parameters Of Caste Not Be A Factor In Defining One’s Dignity?

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Before we delve deep into the sheer brutality of the Hathras rape case of a 19-year-old Dalit girl, let me draw the attention to the plethora of perspectives through which women of all ages are perceived in a society that is crippling in the abyss of its stereotyped notions, nomenclatured for its females as it is torn between the nemesis of patriarchy and the epitome of equity.

So what identity does a woman stand for? A software engineer, scientist, political analyst, teacher? Yes, that is her profession, but who is she? She is an obedient daughter, dutiful wife, obliged mother. Their voices are not meant to be raised but be tender enough to “be ladylike”. Their intellect is not for questioning, but meek submission to the platter presented to them. To finally garnish her identity, add to this “nuanced identity”, the layer of caste and the concoction stands as the most justified and comprehensive “moral code of conduct.”

The harrowing brazenness and sheer inhumanity of the 19-year-old “Dalit” girl gang rape case by four upper-caste men is just a spotlight of this garnished identity. In an environment where women are taught to bite their tongues and bow their heads in all aspects of their preferences, let the fact be reiterated that we are held back by a vicious cycle of rape culture and female objectification where such instances have happened, is happening and is bound to happen again. As Napoleon Bonaparte rightly pointed out: “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”

Notwithstanding the initial rage and demand for accountability, it’s a raw fact that we have legitimised and familiarised our “tech-savvy mindsets” to an epoch of rape culture and patriarchy, at a time when the nation is just recuperating from the delayed justice meted out to the convicts of the Nirbhaya rape case after more than a decade long strife, at a juncture when the nation is scarred by the horrifying realities of the Unnao rape case and most recently, death of a Hyderabad based doctor after being gang-raped. In this age where every day, social media is flooded with instances of sexual harassment and molestation, this instance is yet another grave reminder of the culture that has long been internalised by the herd mentality.

The ceaseless defendants of the blatant rapists further vilify the very idea of democracy to bottomless anarchy. Moreover, the self-perpetuating caste hierarchy has also belittled our sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic into a travesty of justice.

Family members of the Hathras victim have alleged that her body was cremated by the police in the middle of the night against their wishes.

With all due respect to the principles of indiscrimination enshrined in the constitution, let us reacquaint ourselves with the ground reality that the Dalit community is being ostracised, this caste-ridden society suppresses their aspirations and voices. The cremation of the mortal remains of the victim allegedly without the consent and presence of any of its family members by the police is an absolute betrayal of the faith reposed in the protectorate of law and order in the country which should ideally be instrumental in securing justice.

Cocooned comfortably amidst our virtual screens, it’s impossible to conjecture the menace that haunts the Dalits perpetually. The moaning of a Dalit mother when she sees her daughter on the funeral pyre after being sexually assaulted. The helplessness of the silenced tongues under the pressure of men in power. The social ostracism of the victim’s family does not differ from the other men of flesh and blood. It’s real, raw, piercing, unimaginable.

When will the parameters of caste not be a factor in defining one’s dignity? When will the government realise that the worth of a victim is not a mere ₹50 lakh? When will these barbaric acts of humanity be spared from the purview of political humdrum?

Unfortunately, it’s an age of controversies, not of questions. Genuine voices are muted and dragged into the political imbroglio. We are in a country where the height of a temple surpasses the very idea of humanity, where the Hindutva rhetoric mingles into a casteist regime, where victims are bought with the greed for money and lust for power. Unless the citizens cast off their complacency and raise questions on issues that matter, it will be too late when the already segregated community is pushed beyond the periphery into a perpetual decline.

Thus, concluding with my address to all those rational, enlightened minds, it’s no more just a game of caste endogamy. It’s the very self-perpetuating culture that you and I live through, in a system that has failed us over and over again. Our dissent can make a difference. Our questions can spark reform. Our perspectives can strike a change at least in favour of a government which prioritises sexual harassment issues, economic crisis, unemployment and migrant deaths over mounting temples, political blame-game and Bollywood drug cartels.

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  1. Shivam Gupta

    True.. everything you said is true.. only this time I wish that it wasn’t.. I don’t know I feel so helpless.. this has happened.. there’s nothing I can do.. other than the wasteful candle demonstrations at India Gate. This is bound to happen again.. still I can’t do anything in my power to prevent it..

    1. Shivam Gupta

      Are we really what our creater wanted us to be.. are we humans?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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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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