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This International Women’s Day, Remember The Survivors Of Domestic Violence

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We celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March every year. On this day, everyone talks about women’s empowerment and praises women for their contribution and achievements.

There is no doubt that women are growing and shining, bagging a lot more success for themselves and bringing pride to our country. But behind this beautiful celebration of women’s day, let’s not forget that a large portion of women are suffering from domestic violence, sexual abuse, harassment, are being tortured by their in-laws for dowry, etc.

There are different types of violence a woman faces at different levels of life, even before her birth. There is an economic and cultural preference for sons in our society, which leads to female feticide and infanticide. 

At their school-going age, many girls are not even given access to completion of proper primary and secondary education as compared to boys. Also, girls suffer from discrimination at the hands of parents and teachers in their upbringing. Many adolescent girls become survivors of sexual abuse and harassment on the internet and in their day-to-day life; they also face violence, acid attack, rapes, early marriage, etc.

domestic abuse
3,78,277 crimes were committed against women in India in 2018.

After marriage, many women are tortured physically, mentally, economically and emotionally by their husbands and in-laws. Women often suffer from exploitation, unequal pay and opportunities at the workplace, and lack of promotions despite having merits and physical, emotional and economic abuse.

In all these types of violence, women suffer quietly. They are silenced or suppressed even if they raise their voice against it. They are often ignorant of her rights to fight against these crimes and what remedies are present in law to protect them. And some of them don’t complain because of the fear of the family’s respect and recognition. Approximately one in three women experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by their intimate partner.

Almost 30% of women have experienced physical violence from the age of 15, 6% have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. 4% of ever-pregnant women have experienced physical violence during their pregnancy. Among married women, 30% of them have gone through physical, sexual or emotional violence from their spouses. The most common among these are physical violence (30%) and emotional violence (14%), followed by sexual violence (7%). 

According to a statistics report released by India’s National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), 3,78,277 crimes were committed against women in India in 2018. And the total crime rate against women was 58.8%.

After the implementation of lockdown, domestic violence increased extensively across the world. Even in India, the rates of domestic violence have increased after the lockdown. At the beginning of the nation-wide lockdown, 257 reports of different offences against women were received by National Commission for Women (NCW), out of which 69 cases have been reported as Domestic Violence.

According to the chairperson of NCW, the highest numbers of cases were registered from Punjab and all these were reported through email. In Delhi, 2,500 women calls have been received from emergency helpline number out of which 600 have been classified as cases of women abuse, 23 calls have been recorded as rapes and almost 1,612 have been reported as domestic violence.

According to the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) report, the maximum numbers of domestic violence cases have been received from Uttarakhand, followed by Haryana and Delhi. Since March 2020, crimes against women have increased by 21%, from 4,709 to 5,695. Cases of domestic violence also increased from 3,287 to 3,993 during the lockdown.

Addressing domestic violence has become an urgent issue for the government and society as it is considered a public health crisis and a criminal act. Several states have launched their helpline to help women facing domestic violence. While the laws can provide a partial solution to these problems, we need to change our mindsets to eradicate this issue.

Laws Against Domestic Violence

Dowry deaths in India
Source: NCRB

Several laws protect a married woman from abuse and violence from her husband or her husband’s relatives:

  • Section 498A of IPC, harassment for dowry by her husband and his family is considered a crime. This includes both physical and mental harassment.
  • The practise of dowry is outlawed by the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961. Apart from this, if the dowry is given or taken by anyone other than the women, she is entitled to that money/property.
  • The Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act 2005 restricts a wide range of abuse against women; it includes physical, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. This scope also covers women who are in a live-in relationship and are not married.

The government of India provides several laws to protect women. Many NGOs are also working to make women aware of their legal rights to protect them from domestic violence, abuse, harassment, etc. While analysing these laws practically, one will get to know that women need to go through a lengthy and painful process to get justice.

These laws are not sufficient to find the solution to all the violence, abuse and discrimination. We need to bring societal change and change in the attitude of every individual.

Domestic violence or dowry-related abuses done by partners or in-laws can be stopped if other women of the family raise a voice against it. Sadly, women are considered inferior to men and don’t have the right to put their thoughts across. The women who suffer from all this violence consider it the man’s right to punish them for their deeds.

Here, women need to be well aware of their legal, political and economic rights. Every woman should be financially independent and should learn to raise their voices for themselves. Most importantly, our society should evolve and start treating women equally, respecting their choices and decisions. Only then we can say that our country has real women empowerment.

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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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