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How Men Are Important Stakeholders In Ending Violence Against Women

More from Anthony Chettri AISS, Amity University, Noida

As UN observes 16 Days Of Activism, starting November 25, with this year’s over-arching theme being rise in violence against women during the pandemic, I was reflecting about the role of an important stakeholder in this violence – the men. It is true that men inflict violence but can they also play the role of ending the violence against women?

In order to play a positive role in ending gender-based violence against women, the men fraternity needs to unlearn all the toxic patriarchy that they have picked up from their socialization process and relearn the way to respect their fellow human beings – women.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English Romantic and radical poet, rightly said, “Can man be free if woman be a slave?

Men learn very strongly from their family and surroundings that it is their physical power that determines his masculinity. This is the dangerous thing that men need to unlearn.

The new thing that men need to learn is emotional sensitivity and that the right kind of sensitization towards other genders is the actual masculinity.

The sudden increase in rates of domestic abuse of women nationally and internationally during the pandemic opened the pandora box of gender dynamics in our family and society. This made UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality, to term the violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic as being the ‘shadow pandemic’ that impacted women a lot.

The pandemic has brought in sudden unplanned stress associated with health concerns. Accompanied by lockdown, the pandemic has brought in financial worries which has placed additional strains on relationships thereby resulting in the occurrence of domestic violence. For example, in the survey carried out by Women’s Aid in April 2020, 30.4% of those experiencing domestic violence said that their abuser blamed them for the economic impact of COVID-19 on the household.

Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms…In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.” —Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, paragraph 112.

The men fraternity, who are the main perpetrators of violence to women, need to reflect whether they want to be remembered as demons in the history written by women down the line. At least I want a better place in their story about men. I feel that it is high time for men to play an important role in preventing gender-based violence on women. Part of it can be done through simple individual steps like refraining from using swear words or slang words in the name of one’s mother or sister and actively intervening when hearing another man narrating sexist jokes or passing degrading remarks against women.

It is obvious and important to focus on men’s roles in preventing violence against women. Engagement with men to end the violence is informed by the understanding that violence against women hurts women and that men can have an important influence on reducing violence by changing their own attitudes and behaviour and by intervening to prevent other men’s violence. Men need to be invited to be partners in solving the problem.

It is seen through many experiments that small, interactive-all male groups facilitated by men are particularly effective wherein men share their experience of positive anti-violence values and actions with other men. This sharing and interaction needs to be strengthened, and men must work in collaboration with women in these efforts. The governance of the country, be it political executive or administration like the police, should call men to come together to end this cowardly act of violence to glorify their manhood.

Representational image.

Multi-pronged campaigns lead by men to stop violence by men on women need to be started at war footing with the help mass media tools and platforms to create a buzz that it is no more masculine to be violent. Instead, a counter-narrative needs to be created that masculinity means rational, sensitivity, graceful and humane.

When I see cars on the road of Delhi showcasing their caste or race by prominent articulation as “I am proud Jat” or “I am proud Rajput” or “I am proud Brahmin”, it not only shows the caste mentality but also shows the violent patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Those cars are mostly driven by men. Very few auto drivers carry stickers on their auto with a message for men to respect all women. Respecting women or loving women is mostly seen as a weakness for men. Men are taught to keep them in control.

Men need to unlearn that woman as their mother, sister, wife and daughter need their protection and control. If men around them are humane, then the world will totally be a safer place for women.

It is ironical and funny (I don’t know what term to use) that it is men who create an unsafe environment for women and then they themselves try to protect women as their brother, husband and father. What a great dynamic to keep women in control! What a shame on us as men… what a shame.

Men need to work on their image building. They need to organize themselves and start talking among themselves that it is not cool to be violent. Violence will only instigate violence. Men need to learn from their own mythological stories penned down by them that men who were violent towards women like Mahisashur, Ravana etc., perished at the end even though they were highly knowledgeable and physically strong.

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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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