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Hate The Crime, Not The Criminal: Why I Do Not Support Capital Punishment

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No one is born a criminal; society made them one.

“Hate the crime, not the criminal.” — Mahatma Gandhi

This alluring expression by Gandhi was made against prisoners being punished harshly in jails. He demanded society to understand the psychology of a criminal and what that ingredient is that turns a genuine human being into a culprit. But does this statement restraint us from hating a rapist, murderer or a corrupt man? Not at all. These words allow us to hate rape, murder and corruption so, we as a society should not uphold them.

After paying close attention to studies done by criminologists and physiologists all over the world, I, too, support the path of prevention and rehabilitation instead of favouring corporal punishments, which are traditional methods. These methods were followed after many of the mishaps, including the Nirbhaya rape case and the Hyderabad case.

But did it stop the Hathras gang rape from happening? No. Believe it or not, death penalties are just for public satisfaction and give no antidote against the disbanding of these crimes. Such punishments are ineffective methods to curb crimes from society, as stated by professor Jeffrey Fagan in a research paper by Columbia Law School.

It’s hard to cure a fully infected body instead of removing that one initial part that causes the disease to the whole body. And I guess the initial start of every crime comes from anger, frustration, lustful desire, greed and how can I forget the dreadful term ‘patriarchy’ in our society? According to Richard J Herrnstein and James Q Wilson in the New York Times publication, societal factors play a huge role in turning a normal human into a criminal mindset. How they have been brought up, the kind of education they receive and what they see in their families — all constitute their behaviour in adult life that might be aggressive, loving, dominating or encouraging in nature.

When a doctoral research thesis was done on Tihar Jail rapists by Dr Madhumita Pandey, she observed that 80% of criminals don’t even understand the meaning of consent because their culture has never taught them that a woman’s consent matters and those from richer class who understand the meaning of consent had bribed the protectors of justice to shut their mouths.

We as society are always much more focused on how to punish the accused and how women should be protected against rapes — can staying at home, not going to deserted areas and learning self-defense help women? If your answer is yes, then what would you like to name the marital rapes and domestic violence happening behind closed doors and harassment inside crowded metros? I guess if bodyguards of society, i.e. men, know how to protect a woman, then there is no need for girls to learn martial arts.

The penal code need not be reformed, but it’s our mentality and the way of work need to be changed first. Day-to-day practice of eve-teasing, throwing sexist jokes, using degrading language and memes against women, and making movies such as Agni Sakshi, Tezaab, Biwi no. 1 and Pati Patni Aur Woh, which encourage domestic violence are a huge threat to our culture.

I have seen many Indian ‘nationalists’ who criticise foreign customs and term their culture as superior when it comes to laws on marital rape and sex education, but for the same people, it’s quite cool to watch pornography on their 4G network rather than learning the same in schools.

rape culture
Victim blaming is often used as a counter-argument against victims of sexual violence.

I put blame on these people because while the American feminist movement is demanding a braless society, people in Haryana are still blaming girls for wearing jeans — after all, it invites men. How normal it is for parents to raise their boys with titles such as Sher, Raja etc., ultimately pushing them towards harsh masculinity, teaching them not to cry during hard times, and not to say sorry even when they are wrong because the king never apologises and the lion never bends in front of others.

Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan once stated in her speech that such culprits should be brought out in public and lynched. But should any mature democracy be a supporter of mob rule? I guess a proud moment for Indians was not when Ajmal Kasab got hanged, but when Bhishma Pitamah of Indian law Ram Jethmalani decided to defend him.

It is not that I am justifying such offenders, but everyone is entitled to be heard and put on trial. Imagine what we would call ourselves if we ever hanged the wrong person to death; we’d be called murderers then. Hope you remember the Ryan International School abuse incident, where the first instance bus conductor was declared the perpetrator, but after a CBI investigation, we came to know that the real culprit was someone else.

Demanding capital punishment and encounters is easy, what’s hard is doing nationwide campaigns, interviewing convicts, giving ‘real parvarish’ to children and reforming society at large. It’s important that we all come together and work on the root causes of these crimes. There is no better way than educating and empowering women while also ensuring that young men develop a healthy notion of masculinity. It’s not the sole duty of the police or judiciary to protect fellow humans, it’s ours too; because we too are humans.

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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 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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