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On Sidharth Shukla’s Funeral Coverage: Don’t Celebrities Deserve Privacy?

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Actor Sidharth Shukla’s death is a massive shock to the television industry and fans. But, the way media treated his family, friends, and their overall right to privacy, did not serve as a shock for me, personally.

We have seen it before with other major actors, sports people, politicians, etc. and it makes me question: don’t they deserve the right to privacy?

Actor Sidharth Shukla passed away recently, after a cardiac arrest. Photo credit: Sidharth Shukla, Facebook.

In the world of technology, the Internet, and social media, privacy seems to be a major price a lot of people pay. Figuratively, celebrities are expected to compromise their privacy when they sign up for a job that expects them to stand in front of the cameras.

Still, they are also people. They have families and friends, some of whom are not used to the paparazzi.

Media Hounded Shehnaaz Gill As She Sobbed

Recently, his funeral was held in Mumbai. His colleagues from the TV and film industry came to pay their last respects. I shook my head when a couple of them spoke to the media about Shukla’s family status.

In an angering moment, one of them mentioned how heartbroken and inconsolable Shehnaaz Gill was.

Now, Shehnaaz Gill and Sidharth Shukla developed a deep friendship during their stint on the reality show “Bigg Boss” (season 13). They earned the popular nickname “SidNaaz” on social media.

They remained close even after they came out of the house. After his death, Twitter was bombarded with concerns about Gill how his death will affect her.

Shehnaaz Gill. Photo credit: Shehnaz Kaur Gill, Facebook.

Now, I made a conscious decision not to open any links or tabs that featured images from the funeral because I knew that it was in a way, a violation of their privacy.

Still, I came across this one viral video on several Twitter handles that bothered me to the extent that I decided to write this piece.

In that video, the media gathered around Gill who is in her car with a male companion. Men and women carrying microphones and cameras were heard shouting and commenting: “Shehnaaz is in the car!”, “She has reached the ground.”

They even called out to her, asking for a soundbite.

Then I saw Gill throwing her head back, against the seat, and crying inconsolably under her mask. I think she cried at that moment not because she misses him, but due to the way the media was hounding her.

Her helplessness and vulnerability can be felt at that moment.

Her male companion turned to the cameras and joined his hands. I seemed as though he requested the media to step away.

Rhea Chakraborty Was Treated The Same Way

In another viral photo, she looked shocked and nervous to be around so many cameras as she stepped out. Cameras were shoved in front of her face as she tried to walk. This served as a huge déjà vu moment because we saw how Rhea Chakraborty was treated last year.

The same lack of respect and compassion, was seen with Shukla’s mother and other friends of his from the industry.

Someone’s death has become a show. The reason why the cameras are so confident about hounding the grieving ones is because people will be tuning in to watch it.

Several celebrities including Gauahar Khan, Anushka Sharma, Monika Rawal, Kiran Manral and Zakir Khan condemned this monstrous level of insensitivity displayed by major channels.

Zakir Khan took to Instagram to share a poem, when translated to English, says:

“They don’t think of you as a human being. Not because there aren’t any lines or boundaries. Your corpse is not a body without a soul, but an opportunity to click pictures. As many as they can click. It’s similar to how people try to steal crockery from houses burning in a riot. Because after that, what use will you be? At most, 10 pictures, five news pieces, three videos, two stories, one post. That’s it.”

Why can’t people celebrate a person’s life and achievements, instead of trying to find elation in their loved ones’ tears?
I don’t expect the day’s heartbreaking visuals and resulting anger to serve as a watershed moment when it comes to media, ethics, and privacy concerns.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Shukla’s death is turned into a bigger and uglier controversy, like what happened with Sushant Singh Rajput, where his near and dears ones were vilified. His private life was painfully exposed, dividing the industry itself.

His death was used as a distraction against the ongoing social issues, including the pandemic and economic repercussions. We saw how his death was used as an opportunity by many. 

Actors Don’t Owe You Anything

When Anushka Sharma slammed the  paparazzi for taking pictures of herself and her husband Virat Kohli at their residence, I saw many insensitive comments online where folks “reminded” her of her status.

Plenty of women and men have had their privacy being ousted like that. The ones who raise their voice against this are vilified.

Shukla’s PR requested the media to draw a line and give his loved ones some space. That is what needs to be done. Still, nothing could stop the flock from hitting the road. Death is a trauma for the family and friends.

They need the time to heal. Facing the cameras during her grief was the lowest point for Gill.

Hopefully, there will come a time when privacy and boundaries are respected. There will come a time when someone is not denied dignity in their death… Hopefully!

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Sidharth Shukla, Facebook.
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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.

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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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