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Opinion: The World Is Nowhere Near Achieving Human Rights For All

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TW: Mentions Of Rape, Sex Trafficking

Human Rights (HR) are two words which when explained with the basic meaning will be rights for humans where the word human means being gentle and kind; otherwise, these right also equate to rights for people who are committing treacherous and unscrupulous crimes but demanding a safe and clear passage.

History Of Human Rights

HR is not as new as UNHRC and goes back to the time of King John and the Magna Carta but has gained prominence only after Hitler bashed the Treaty of Versailles black and blue while committing horrors against jews, genocides, killings, massacre etc. HR has always been evolving and has a constructed focus. After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, it was the Concert of Europe that acted as the authority, after WW1, it was the league of nations (too idealistic to see WW2 brewing) and after the league was dismantled and WW2 was over, it was the UN which takes cares of issues at a global level.

The UN is a conscious body for bureaucratising the problems that are faced on the canvas and at the lower strata of the pyramid. HR is more of a disco ball which is big but reflects even the smallest of issues. Peace, conflict and development are the three pillars on which HR rests, representing the trident of Atlan. A gulf between the developed and developing is where the violations of HR occur. We have seen internationally that the least developed counties and their people are the ones who are subjects to violations whereas developed countries face fewer issues of HR violations. Historically the biggest HR crisis has been seen in the forms of migrant crisis,  forced prostitution and human trafficking, HR crisis based on religious fundamentalism, discrimination, economic parity etc. 

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Indian martyrs of WW1 were never remembered until 1931 when India Gate was made to commemorate them.

Internationally, we have witnessed that in history, the migrant crisis has always been pertinent and acted as modus operandi for the benefit of the colonialist and their deliberate militant policies, converting the colonies into a cash cow for their own personal gains. We have seen millions of Africans who were forced to migrate or transported across seas as cheap labour. They were stashed like woollens in ships for transport whilst many died on the way due to suffocation.

They were deprived their means of livelihoods and kept in poor conditions. During the British rule over their commonwealth countries, millions were migrated to benefit the British for their purpose and few themselves migrated to search for a better livelihood away from the cons of the colonialist. Approx. 1 million men were migrated in WW1 by Britishers from India and many more were displaced, arrested, killed and imprisoned. There was not even a memorial that was resurrected in their honour and was only constructed in 1931 when India Gate was built to honour the martyred.

In WW2 it was much worse, 2 million approximately. The Britishers brought in Imperial civil services (ICS) in 1858 after sepoy mutiny which was used as a means to discriminate against Indians further. They wanted to promote the concept of ‘divide et impera (divide and rule)’. They said we want people who are Indians but dress and speak like us. We literally paid for our own oppression and the violations of HR. Jawaharlal Nehru said that ‘these services were neither civil nor imperial and neither serving the Indian purpose’.

Forced Prostitution And Sex Trafficking

Another issue in HR violation is forced prostitution. Prostitution was abolished in 1819 in India but yet it has not disappeared from the face of India. Places like GB road in Delhi and the red light area in Mumbai are opened as loquacious centres where sex trafficking is rampant. Yet, they are functioning in broad light. Many women and girls below the age of 18 are forced into prostitution and are sold away. The UN has ratified the Palermo protocol through ILO to fight against sex trafficking but such activities are yet carried out in broad daylight with the administration both hand in glove.

In the times when RTE and NEP are formulated for children to study and become a better person,  many girls are still pushed off the cliff into the terai from which they can never come out easily. It is believed and said that ‘if one educates a boy, the family prospers but if one educates a girl, the whole society benefits’. Our country is grasped with the orthodoxies but we fail to understand that if boys and girls both earn, work and study, the country as a whole can benefit on the socio-economic-political grounds.

If 40% of those forced to be housewives are allowed to work, then not only the family is better off financially but they also can contribute to the GDP of the country. Statements like ‘Maa ka haath ka khaana accha hai (food made by mother is best)’ ignore the fact that this is because she works inside the four chambers of the home and is not allowed to work outside. If allowed she can make the world a better place for all, re-amending the statement to ‘maa sabkuch karsakti hai (mothers can do anything)’. This can also help in ensuring that the demographic dividend doesn’t convert into a demographic disaster.

Religion And Discrimination

HR violations are mostly seen and committed in the name of religion but exceed to be qualified as religious fundamentalism, totalitarianism, absolutism etc. Many of the kingpins are educated who execute terror for their benefit and are the major catalyst for wreaking havoc and disrupting human rights. We see that there are religious scriptures that were written ages ago and hence as time changes and the fish keeps diving deeper into the pond when the above surface evaporates, these scriptures aren’t open to change and criticism and are static.

Some orthodox dogmatic preachers have become fanatic while some others have manipulated the scriptures in a way that they as a community can benefit as a whole by pushing aside others. The biggest problem we face that people have elevated the ideals to a realist position and then idealised the then realist position to a place where they have not been subjected to change. As we know that preaching an idea can help attain moksha but preaching any ideal blindly can only lead to disorder and distress. 

Discrimination and economic parity are both reverent in contemporary times for HR violations. In India 10% of the people hold 74.3% of the wealth and 90% of the people live on mere subsistence and subsidies. We see grand examples between the discriminatory displacements of salary, the gulf between a person living in a condominium and the one living on the streets and begging. A taxation system was introduced to bridge the gulf but red-tapism entered its doors and overtook its sole objective.

Due to this wide gulf, some people look for an easy way to earn money hence giving into stealing, murder, arson etc. Such acts are means and ways to violate HR and hence disrupting the fabric of the country.

Women’s Rights

In India, one of the biggest women’s right violations was seen quite recently when a 23-year-old girl was brutally tortured and raped in a moving bus on a cold winter night on the roads of Delhi on 16th December. She was travelling with her friend when she was gangraped by few men who committed extremities using an iron rod for penetration and committed the most ugliest-heinous acts to which even Hades would be ashamed of.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – DECEMBER 16: DU students and members of Asmita Theatre Group hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against government as Nirbhaya and other rape survivors haven’t received justice, on the seventh anniversary of the Nirbhaya rape case, at Jantar Mantar on December 17, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Later, the boy and the girl were thrown out of the moving bus on an empty road only to be discovered and sent to the hospital. Later she was sent abroad for an operation where she succumbed to her death. This act outraged a lot of people to gather and protest shaking the administration and forcing them to look into the safety of women and the HR issues as a whole. This was a mass united to stand for a cause that was exactly parallel to HR.

There are hundreds of HR violations across India and the world, whether it is Kashmir, North East, China, Yemen, Middle East etc. We have seen many HR violations in China but due to their carefully constructed firewall we never get to know the atrocities committed there, few that we know of were of the Uyghur Muslims and the Tiananmen Square incident.

We also see the USA recently under president Biden’s administration standing for HR both in China and Russia where he condemned the attacks on HR in both countries and especially in Russia for HR violations against Alexei Navalny. We see HR violations in all fields, gender; whether it is a boy, girl, young, old and whether he belongs to any religion. Issues of HR violations has always caused entropy. The above mentioned are a few of the many millions that give a lie to the myth of betterment.

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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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