Meet Trisha Shetty, whose NGO provides medical and legal support to rape survivors

Recently, social activist Trisha Shetty received an unsolicited dick pic with her name on it, on Instagram. As a feminist and founder of the Mumbai-based NGO, SheSays, Shetty often gets trolls, abuse and even rape/death threats coming her way on social media. All because she advocates for equal rights for women.

SheSays’s 2017 campaign, #LahuKaLagaan, called for abolishing tax on sanitary napkins, and went viral after it received support from celebrities like comedians Kaneez Surka, Mallika Dua and actor Aditi Rao Hydari. “The PIL is pending in the Supreme Court at present,” Shetty says, determined to see it through.

Her NGO SheSays provides end-to-end services to survivors of sexual assault and also their families, across India. They accompany rape survivors to the police station for filing a complaint, to the hospital for medical examination, and also to the courtroom. In case a survivor is unable to afford counselling to address trauma, SheSays also pays for it.

“In 2014, I realised that many people were talking about violence against women, but the conversation was not centred around the survivor who needs rehabilitation,” Shetty says. There was no ‘aha’ moment that led her to set up the NGO — the fact that all women and members of the LGBTQ community have a story of abuse drove her to engage in on-ground action.

The SheSays website provides much-needed information on the laws and procedures related to sexual harassment, rape, workplace harassment, etc. It simplifies legal jargon and makes use of infographics so that even a layperson can understand. It helps that Shetty and many of her team members have a law background.

The law prescribes upto 3 years of rigorous imprisnoment and fine for offenders under Section 354 A i.e Sexual Harassment. To know more about this offence and how to seek remedies, log on to http://www.shesays.in You do not have to tolerate or let any kind of sexual harassment slide. No one should be allowed to get away with sexual harassment scot free. #shesays #sexualharrassment #action #law #india #speakup #ipc

A post shared by SheSays India (@shesaysindia) on Apr 19, 2018 at 3:44am PDT

Their work was recently recognised by Queen Elizabeth at the Buckingham Palace, where Shetty was given the Queen’s Young Leader Award. The NGO is driven by the youth. “They feel its their moral responsibility to be there for the survivor. Sometimes the rape accused is right there at the police station but they still show up to work. I take great objection to young people being termed as armchair activists,” she says.  

Shetty draws inspiration and strength from people like Asha Devi and BN Singh (parents of Nirbhaya), who she knows personally. She says, “They are so resilient. Asha Devi says that silence is not an option for her.” It’s not an option for Shetty either who’s often seen on debates by TV channels, standing up against politicians and religious leaders alike. Even as a child, she was encouraged by her mother to speak up if she felt discriminated against. “I grew up in an environment where my voice and agency was celebrated,” she says.

Someday perhaps, every girl child in the country will have that liberty, and the cultural shift will definitely be because of organisations like SheSays. 

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