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5 Cases Of Violence That Show Us Why Parents Are Afraid Of Sending Girls To School

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*Trigger Warning: Violence*

By Kritika Bhambhry

For Azad India Foundation

Fear Of Safety

Nine out of ten girls are completing their primary education internationally, but only three out of four are completing their lower secondary education. Less than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries are in primary education, and about one in three are in lower secondary school.

The implications for girls of dropping out of school prematurely are serious. When thinking about what can be done to improve educational opportunities for girls, we need to consider the difficulties experienced by young girls. When parents are asked in surveys why their daughters have dropped out of education, there are often concerns related to the cost of schooling (out-of-pocket and opportunity costs), early marriages and unwanted pregnancies, a lack of school learning, and a lack of interest in attending school. 

When thinking about what can be done to improve educational opportunities for girls, we need to consider the difficulties experienced by young girls. Representational image

A recent study conducted by Save the Children in six Indian states shows that many talented girls are forced to drop out of school due to a lack of safe spaces like school, workplace and markets. They do not seek higher education and prevent themselves from engaging in work due to fear, and force themselves to stay inside their homes.

Violence is a serious problem in and around educational settings. The most well-known types of school-related gender-based violence may be sexual abuse and harassment, but it may take many other forms. Violence based on gender includes violence or bullying based on gender stereotypes or targeting students based on their gender, sexuality, or gender identity.

Strengthening gender roles and perpetuating gender inequalities is the main aim of this abuse. Rape, unwanted sexual contact, unwanted sexual remarks, corporal punishment, bullying, and verbal harassment are included.

Unequal relationships of power between adults and children and between men and women lead to this violence that may take place in school, on school grounds, on the way to and from school, or in school dormitories, and may be committed by teachers, students, or members of the community. Both girls and boys may be offenders as well as victims. Gender-based violence associated with school results in sexual, physical, and/or psychological damage to girls and boys.

In this article, I will be mentioning certain cases that prove even places like schools and colleges do not guarantee a safe environment to women which further leads to the families being sceptical about their education as their safety is much more important than their education.

Case 1: 14-year-old gang-raped in Dehradun school was force-fed chillies & papaya for 6 days

A 14-year-old girl gang-raped by four of her seniors at a Dehradun school was confined to a room for nearly a week and forced to eat herbs, chillies and papaya until she started to suffer from cramps and vomiting. All this because, having heard that she had become pregnant, her school administrators decided to trigger a miscarriage in an effort to save the integrity of the school. They took her to a nearby clinic, where they were eventually exposed, only after their attempts failed.

Case 2: Class 2 student allegedly raped by electrician in Delhi Government school

At a government-run school in the heart of Delhi, a six-year-old was allegedly raped by an electrician. The defendant was detained, the police said. The rape was confirmed in her medical report. Four government officials have been suspended, including the school’s headmistress. 

The girl in class 2 was reportedly gagged by an electrician who pulled her to the school premises’ water pump and raped her. The incident came to light when she told her parents about her ordeal after returning home.

Case 3: Six-year-old allegedly raped, strangled with school belt; 40-year-old arrested

In Tonk district’s Aligarh police station region, a six-year-old was abducted and allegedly raped and murdered. On a Saturday afternoon, the girl went missing and her body was discovered behind some bushes on the following Sunday morning. 

Her suspected rapist was a neighbour who she would sometimes see from school on the way home. Whenever she stopped by, Mahendra Meena, a truck driver with two daughters of his own, aged 2 and 18, would give sweets and hugs to the six-year-old. So when he was seen cuddling her on Saturday and giving her some toffees, no one felt that was odd. 

But when she left the school gates that afternoon, Meena allegedly took her to the forest behind the school. He is accused of raping her in an abandoned hut with a single window, and then of covering the evidence of his crimes, by putting her belt around her neck and strangling her, and then discarding her body in the parched scrubland. ⠀

Case 4: Principal allegedly raped 6-year-old in school, offered her chocolate

A school principal was arrested in Jharkhand’s Koderma district on charges of allegedly raping a six-year-old child. According to police reports, S. Xavier, the Principal of Tilaiya Public School, was detained at the Tilaiya Police Station after the girl’s father lodged a complaint against him. 

The principal reportedly assaulted the child on November 29, 2017, inside the school’s washroom. He gave her a chocolate when she started to scream. The principal told reporters that he has not committed “any big crime”. He said he committed the crime due to tension, and termed it as “accidental”‘.

Case 5: Student shot outside the exam centre

A young woman was shot dead outside Ballabgarh College, where she had gone to take an examination. She was a commerce student in her final year. Apparently, the attacker, Touseef, and his friend Rehan were waiting in a car for her to come out. Touseef and Nikita knew each other and he also abducted her in 2018, said OP Singh, a police officer from Faridabad.

All the aforementioned cases are few of the multiple crimes against women that take place on a daily basis. In India, sexual harassment against women is pervasive. India reported 88 rape cases every day in 2019, according to recent data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In 2019, almost 6,000 rape cases were reported in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 3,065 cases. 

It is possible that these statistics would be just the tip of the iceberg. A complaint is only filed by a fraction of women who are raped. Due to the social stigma attached to rape, most victims prefer to remain silent. It is not unusual to blame the victim or to cast aspersions on her character.

Given the circumstances, it is understandable why parents make their daughters drop out of school because their safety is not guaranteed anywhere, not even educational institutions like school and colleges. The rising violence against females is keeping young girls out of school and is an obstacle to their education.

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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.

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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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