This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Tanushree Ghosh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Opinion: Justice For All Genders Is What India Needs, Not A Divided Society

More from Tanushree Ghosh

TW: Rape, sexual assault.

‪A few weeks back, a Hindu girl was stabbed to death for rejecting the advances of her Muslim stalker. Hathras had upper-class attackers raping, maiming, and killing a lower caste woman of the same religion. End of November, news came of a six-year-old girl raped and her organs removed, and the perpetrators and victim belonged to the same religion. In close succession, news broke of a Muslim girl being molested and burnt alive by Hindu attackers. Hashtags floated in each case. Social media outrage, fatigued a bit by the close successions, tried, but had to give up ultimately.

Now, yes, the pandemic has worsened the condition of women globally. There are quite a few points to be noted on this matter, the most important ones being:

  1. Disproportionately higher loss of women from the workforce (disproportionate but not surprising – women typically earn less due to a multitude of factors and are considered to be the primary caregivers. So their incomes are considered disposable when families need to make tough choices on who gets to stay home. There are other socio-economic factors published in reports that modulate this, but this article is not to focus on the matter of gender parity in income, so I will move on). This is a global truth, with pockets that fare better or worse.
  2. Significant increase in gender violence (or gender-differentiated victimization). Aggression on women has increased globally (and the reason I mentioned the income factor above is that there is, off-course, a connection between gender violence and victimisation of women to gender parity and empowerment – of which, employment and economic sufficiency is a significant part).

But global trends put aside and speaking mostly qualitatively (quantitative non-con-founding data isn’t available yet), India seems to be faring significantly worse –  especially for aggravated assaults. Our androcentric and patriarchal conditioning causes us to objectify and lessen women (men and women are equally guilty of this devaluation of females in our society). Our obsession with honour makes subjugation and humiliation of women through rape and assault a valid and potent mechanism of control.

These two factors result in causing most of the crimes against women (barring crimes of opportunity – which are driven by different motivation but are made possible also because of the first factor). More the angst (because of the pandemic-driven economic issues as some eminent personalities have claimed, or because of increased ideological polarization and propping of segments against each other), higher the violence and aggravation in the assaults.

So if the root causes can be simplified and grouped (and I really believe they can be as I have done above), what are the primary solutions?

Well, understanding reduction of gender violence as an economic goal – not just social, and making the fight for gender justice a unified statement – not a sub cause divided and slotted secondary to other identities (caste, class, colour), I believe will get us there.

It is not just for social justice and human rights that we need to make the case of curbing of gender violence in India our job one. Yes, that in itself should be motivation enough. Sadly, it has never been. But the thing is, it is not the only motivation. If India wants growth and a better life for all, the economic case for gender parity needs to be brought to the forefront and gender violence is a key modulator in limiting gender parity.

FB - protest against rape
Representative image.

I will give some summaries to make the economic case.

The cost of violence against women (gender-based violence) is estimated to be around 2% of the Global GDP ($1.5 trillion). The projection for the COVID pandemic (which is considered a deep recession) is a 4.4-5.2% GDP shrinkage (reference). So, in other words, eliminating gender-based violence saves the world half a severe recession. Since the top twenty economies (which includes the US and the UK, key European nations, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Mexico) contribute almost 80% to the global GDP (reference), eliminating gender-based violence in nations like the United States, India, China, and Australia is expected to have a significant impact. According to a McKinsey study, India could increase its GDP by $770 billion by 2025 by getting more women to work and increasing gender equality.

In my second recommendation, I am not being toned deaf. Neither am I trying to minimize the differentiated experiences.  Yes, I understand how a victim gets treated by law enforcement (and the entire infrastructure) depends on who they are and yes, coming from a place of privilege, I might lack rights to speak for those who aren’t. There are multitudes of studies that show lower caste and minority women to be victimized in higher numbers. And we know wealth buys power universally. But, despite all this, it is important to realize that when it comes to aggravated assault NO ONE IS REALLY PRIVILEGED. No one is safe. India needs to recognize the real matter here – we have a gender problem! ‬

If we stop slicing the gender statement into class, caste, and colour (which, historically and to date remain a major roadblock in making gender a priority in India) and outrage for every woman instead, the hashtags can unite. India needs to understand that the reason why severe incidents (from Aruna Shahbaug to custody rapes, to Bhanwari devi, to Nirbhaya) have driven revolutions and policies but minimal change, is because gender has been consistently made secondary to other identities we would rather unify for religion, caste, class.

So, instead of justice for Nikita vs. justice for Gulnaaz, or pointing out rapes on Kashmiri pundits in response to Godhra riot atrocities, we need to protest gender violence as a tactic for oppression and suppression of women broadly – understanding that it’s the same national theme. Yes, there are underlying themes, but the overarching one is violence against women and its normalisation through years of conditioning and legalization. “Women are considered insignificant, disposable. Women are lesser and objects. They are ok to be done with. They are the perfect tools for teaching society a lesson.” India needs to fight this. Our economic future depends on this, as does our humanity. ‬

You must be to comment.

More from Tanushree Ghosh

Similar Posts

By shakeel ahmad

By Urvi

By Ashish Ranjan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below