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“Freedom Of Speech Is Not The Freedom To Say Whatever You Want”

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Popular Youtuber Filthy Frank once said, “In this day and age of the internet, ignorance is a choice, and people are still choosing ignorance.”  And given the current pandemic, there are many issues where people turn a blind eye like the issues of farmers, the declining economy, the rising religious strives, racism, rising unemployment because of the pandemic, and other socio-political and economic issues.

Freedom Of Speech Isn’t The Right To Say Whatever You Want

People ignore these issues, or they are just afraid to express their opinion with the fear of being attacked by the mob or the TRP vultures of the TV Media.

What they don’t know is that they have the right to express their opinions, and they have a right to criticize or critique the government regarding certain policies and issues. Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution ensures that every citizen of the country has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

In other words, they have the right to express whatever they want. But freedom of speech doesn’t mean that they have the right to say whatever they want. This isn’t the First Amendment of the US Constitution, where freedom of speech is absolute.

Representational Image. India’s democracy has been functional thanks to the freedom of speech.

Article 19(2) provides reasonable restrictions to protect the integrity, morality of the sovereign, and the foreign relations with the other states. This was also backed up by Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code 1860, the Sedition Law.

Now keep in mind that there were times that Section 124A had been misused by the media to paint someone as anti-nationalist if he or she even tries to give a valid criticism or critique to the government.

The Internet Battle Of Pewdiepie Vs. T-Series That Triggered Patriotism

This isn’t the only cause. If someone dares to speak something critical which is widely accepted by the masses, then the person will be attacked by the mob as if he committed a crime, albeit the only crime he or she committed is to voice his or her opinion.

When the internet feud of the Youtuber Pewdiepie vs. T-Series happened in 2019, many people who supported T-Series attacked the people who supported Pewdiepie all in the name of patriotism. Pewdiepie supporters received tons of death threats, and they were called anti-nationalists by the supporters of T-Series.

In this case, Article 19(1)(a) was thrown out the window like it was nothing. Another example is the Agrima Joshua incident where the standup comedian made a joke about Shivaji Maharaj, and her set was thrashed by the mob leading her to apologize for the joke she made.

Shubham Mishra, an internet personality, then gave rape threats to the comedian for the said joke, which was condemned by many people. Because of this, Shubham Mishra was arrested by the Vadodara Police for the rape threats.

The Agrima Joshua incident is an example of both Article 19(1)(a) because she has the right to make a joke about any subject and Article 19(2) because Shubham Mishra made a rape threat against her.

Social Media Is The Epitome Of The Art Of Freedom Of Speech

Needless to say, people should understand that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and if they have an opinion that is dissenting from theirs, then they should learn to respect it because they have the right to do so.

On social media, people voice out their opinions where they criticize the government for its recent blunders in the economy, the lockdown, the situation with farmers, the growing concerns of religious conflict in India, and other major socio-political events.

Social Media is the epitome of the art of freedom of speech where many people have been allowed to voice their opinions regarding certain issues over the country. However, it could be misused for inciting hate speech regardless many issues in society have been solved by social media.

It has become a powerful medium where people can voice their opinions on subjects like rape and the safety of women in India, which is one of the most popular subjects and thus opens a dialog and conversation around these subjects.

India’s democracy has been functional thanks to the freedom of speech. Countries like China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Belarus, etc. have failed to do so.

Due to the lack of freedom of speech and the implementation of censorship at a greater magnitude, these countries’ government has been misusing their power against their own people for certain agendas. The freedom of speech in India has made democracy more healthy and stable, and it is hoped that it continues to do so.

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Image is for representational purposes only.
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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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