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Rihanna, Disha, Agrima: How Unsafe Is The Social Media For Women?

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The current day and age of the internet is an unbearable cesspool, not because of the current socio-political and the economic climate, but because people now have free time in their hands, thanks to the ongoing pandemic. And a lot of free time is definitely not a good idea because there is always a possibility that it will be misused. And that’s what’s happening on the internet.

Back in the 2000s, the internet was taking its baby footsteps and in just a few years, it became a force to be reckoned with, thanks to the rise of social media giants such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The main aim of social media was to connect with people even if they live on the other side of the world. It is funny how the online world has changed in the past decade or so.

As the 2010s roared in, there was a rise in e-celebrities who received fame on social media and the entire internet as a whole. But it also brought new problems. And when I talk about new problems, I mean the rise of online harassment, cancel culture, political correctness, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, social media trials, online witch hunts and so on. And most of the time, women end up becoming the target of this online ill treatment.

Looks like Joseph McCarthy’s legacy has somehow reached the internet like a plague and has affected a lot of people. Such harassment has not only affected the mental health of women, but also made them feel suicidal. Their self-esteem gets harmed in some cases or they suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress etc. The suicide case of Hana Kimura is the biggest example of this. A Japanese wrestler who died by suicide after receiving tons of online harassment messages over a reality series shows how people can show their worst in troubled times.

Let’s talk about Neha Dhupia. Say what you will about what she said on Roadies Season 18, is she really worth being harassed just because she made a fool of herself? It’s true what she said was wrong, mostly because the guy had no right to hit a girl (in fact, no one should slap anyone of any gender). And yes, her opinion is hypocritical, given the fact that she praised a female contestant for slapping 4-5 guys. But it does not mean that she should be harassed by a mob and the fact that even her daughter received online threats just proves how low people have stooped.

Or what about Hindustani Bhau and Shubham Mishra? The former sent rape threats to women in the name of patriotism and encouraged his 14-year-old fanbase to do the same, whereas the latter sent a rape threat over a joke. I guess we all know what happened to Agrima Joshua. When the female stand-up comedian made a joke about a historical figure (Shivaji Maharaj), her set was destroyed by the mob and she received rape threat by Shubham Mishra.

Although Mishra was arrested by the police, it just shows how tolerance level has gone downhill. During the initial stages of YouTube vs TikTok, when former TikToker Revolver Rani responded to the Roasters of YouTube, she received harassment from their fanbase, not to mention that homophobic slurs were used thanks to the justification given by the roasters.

When the #JusticeForSSR crusade was going on, TRP mosquitoes of mainstream media made tons of fanfictions and conspiracy theories about Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty. Social media added salt to the injury through McCarthyism-type witch hunts and Supreme Court-like trials of Rhea were conducted. She was not only being harassed by reporters, but also by the raging mob who believed all the conspiracy theories and fanfiction doing rounds. Whether she was involved in Sushant’s case remains a question, but this question should be investigated by the Court, not some 14-year-old or 28-year-old who has nothing more to say other than threatening a girl or making misogynistic comments about her.

Fast forward to February 2021, the mob found its new target — Rihanna. Why? Because she tweeted in support of the ongoing farmers’ protest in India. To think that her tweet would harm the sovereignty of India, the mob hit a new low when they justified Chris Brown’s action to physically abuse Rihanna.

As if this couldn’t get any worse, environment activist Disha Ravi got arrested on February 13, 2021, because she allegedly has connections to the group, along with Greta Thunberg, who made a toolkit. Now I don’t personally agree with Thunberg for a few reasons, like how she preaches climate change, yet travels on yachts or planes that produce harmful carbon emissions, thus showing her hypocrisy. But she and Ravi are not worth being vilified, harassed or humiliated just because they don’t agree with the status quo.

If you think that the internet is not safe for women, then you haven’t seen the real world, my friend. Look at Bollywood. Bollywood elites love to preach women empowerment and feminism, yet, their female actors are objectified in their item songs or most of David Dhawan movies. Hollywood elites preach the same thing despite the fact that they have given a standing ovation, fame, recognition to sexual offenders, rapists, paedophiles and people with allegations of sexual assault and/or domestic violence. These figures include Casey Affleck, Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski and Mel Gibson. They also have connections with Jeffrey Epstein.

Of course, there are legal and practical ways to deal with the online harassment of women. But the real responsibility lies within the mob because they don’t understand that their actions have grave consequences and it could not only affect the lives of the people they hurt, but of themselves as well. So, they really need to be very careful about what they say.

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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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