Culture

An Indian portal is mapping stories of sexual assault and risky abortions

Chokhri is changing the narrative.

In 2017, Rashi Wadhera discovered that single (which implies unmarried) women are not accounted for in sexual health and contraception surveys by the National Health Family. So, we don’t actually have an accurate picture of STD incidence, contraception use and legal, safe abortions in the country. Shocked, and spurred into action, by this, she started Chokhri, a website that crowdsources women’s stories related to sexual health and plots them on customised maps on the website.

Rashi says, “If we can empower women to share their stories of bad abortions, STD scares, lack of support systems, assault, indiscretions (even anonymously), it’s one more woman who never managed to speak before. We want to map this on Chokhri to represent the extent of misdemeanours. So every time someone says ‘It’s not that bad’, we can say, ‘Look at this map just lighting up’.” With Chokhri, Rashi hopes to have enough data (however anecdotal in nature) to present a case for the urgent need of dedicated resources to sexual health in the country.

Chokhri’s latest campaign, #TakeItBack, attempts to reclaim cat calls and derogatory slur words that are usually directed at women by turning them into spoken word pieces and merchandise, such as T-shirts. Think: 'item', 'chudail' and 'kutti'. Team Chokhri collaborated with six artists and illustrators (Sudeepti Tucker, Pia Hazarika, Priyanka Paul, Tarini Sethi, Shipra Dutta and Tara Anand) who reimagined these words from their point of view. “#TakeItBack is our first step to reclaim spaces, words and constructs used to demean us. Not just by men, but even amongst women. I’m guilty of using all these words while describing other women,” Rashi admits. “This ends now.”

It’s evident that a lot of rage underlines #TakeItBack – the spoken word performances reflect pent-up anger. So, how much of the campaign is about venting and how much about changing mindsets? “I don’t think one happens without the other,” she says. Any attempt at achieving gender equality requires a conversation between all sexes. I ask Rashi how #TakeItBack facilitates that. “I don’t think anyone is listening. So, let’s try this route. If this doesn’t work, we can reconvene. Achieving gender equality requires a lot of things, but why is the responsibility of emotional labour on the women? For a conversation to happen, both parties have to speak. We’re at a time when women are silenced, not heard or can’t find the strength to speak. Let’s change that first, then we can have the conversation,” she says.

Visit www.chokhri.com to share your story. Watch the #TakeItBack videos on Chokhri's Instagram.