Yogita Bhayana had a successful career in the aviation industry. In 2007, she quit her job to work for reforms, she spearheaded the movement with Jyoti Singh’s mother which brought the change in the juvenile justice law, the age limit for rapists was lowered from 18 to 16 years. Currently, she is busy helping migrants especially patients who are stuck in Delhi to go back to their homes.

The turning point of her life came when on one of her break days, she was coming out after watching a movie and found someone lying on the road in a pool of blood and nobody was ready to pick him up. Yogita says, “My first interaction with a government hospital, a police station and court was for this stranger who had literally died in my arms. That’s when I decided that we need to do something about reforms”.

In a freewheeling chat with SheThePeople Yogita talks about her current work of organizing buses for migrants, how activism happened to her and many pressing issues such as domestic violence, marital rape, child sexual abuse and how social media is influencing the adolescent and what more needs to be done.

Delhi based social activist went for every hearing in the Nirbhaya case and sat outside the jail while the hanging finally took place. Post Nirbhaya gangrape, she played an active role in the campaign which sought to change in the juvenile justice law age limit.“Not just Nirbhaya but there were so many cases like hers where the juvenile got away, there were cases where a juvenile even got away after killing the girl. So, the Nirbhaya case was a trigger. I along with Nirbhaya’s mother (Asha Devi) sat in front of the juvenile jail and gradually it gained momentum, and that time the parliament was in session so the things also moved quickly.”

“My first interaction with a government hospital, a police station and court was for this stranger who had literally died in my arms.”

When Kingfisher Airlines started, Yogita was one of the eight leading team members there. She admits, “There was a great kick in flying all over the world.” It was after she helped that accident victim that she decided that she needed to do something about reforms. “I believe more in reforms, there is no dearth of social work. In 2007, I quit my job and started doing voluntary work for the Sheila Dixit government and worked with hospitals organising ambulances, etc. It was in 2012 after the Nirbhaya gangrape that I realized you need to sometimes protest against the system to get work done. And with this episode, my attention also diverted towards sexual violence and especially brutal rapes. People also started to approach me to help them in POCSO,” Yogita says.

Yogita is the founder of People Against Rapes In India, a non-profit against sexual violence, on starting PARI, she says, “When we protested for Nirbhaya I stationed myself at Jantar Mantar for three months, then the Gudiya case happened and I went to see her in the hospital, that’s when I entered a wrong ward and found about a case which was not reported in the media. And I realized how there are so many of these brutal rape cases which do not make it to the news. I filed RTIs and realised how under-reported POCSO cases are in our country. It was two years ago when I decided to start a dialogue for prevention of such cases I thought about PARI (People Against Rapes In India) not as an NGO but as a campaign.”

Currently, she is busy organizing buses for outstation patients who were stuck in Delhi. She shares, “I have always had a soft spot for patients, they are living on roads, they do not have proper ids, most of them do not have a phone, to get things organized for them is a big challenge. It takes me two to three days to compile a bus. We have to gather them and take them to the screening centres, where they check the temperature, then we have to transport them to the DC’s office and ultimately if all boxes are ticked they can board a bus, which can run only on half the capacity. There are too many formalities not keeping in mind that they (migrants) are walking anyway and dying on the roads. Rather than making it simple, the government has made it so complicated that it is a challenge for us. Due to the complexity, I have so far sent eight buses and I am planning to send two more. Last-mile connectivity is another big challenge. The government has left everything to NGOs and people like Sonu Sood.”

There are too many formalities not keeping in mind that they (migrants) are walking anyway and dying on the roads.

The lockdown has been to keep us safe from COVID-19 however, it has posed its own challenges surge in Domestic Violence cases is one of them. On this Yogita says, “Domestic violence was earlier linked to liquor, now when there was no liquor domestic violence was still on the rise. So, it is very clear whether there is liquor or no liquor domestic violence is there, it is because of the patriarchal mindset of the men. It is an awakening for us as a society that what are we heading towards?”

In India marital rape is not even acknowledged as a crime. On which Yogita says, “Ninety percent of the cops won’t acknowledge that marital rape exists, they won’t count that as domestic violence.” Adding “Even if you push the cops to lodge a complaint, there are no rehabilitation centres who support such women, even her parents won’t be ready to accept her. We hold the in-laws accountable but we should also hold the girl’s parents accountable, even they are not ready to support a survivor of domestic violence in most cases. This calls for a change in the mindset, you have to treat your women as equal only then society can grow.”

Recently there was a data which suggested a big drop in rape cases, in Delhi. Yogita differs on this data and elaborates, “Yes, on-road rapes, accidents and many other casualties have come down. The rapes within the four walls have not gone down, a huge number of calls have been received on the child abuse helpline. And in most cases, child abuse happens through known sources and within the four walls.”

Yes, on-road rapes, accidents and many other casualties have come down. The rapes within the four walls have not gone down.

Moving from women’s issues to children’s issues, the PARI site quotes, “One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.” So, are boys aware that they are equally vulnerable to sexual abuse? Yogita assures that this data is from her survey done with 400 people. And that in schools, both boys and girls are learning about good touch and bad touch so they are aware. Schools are very sensitive about creating this awareness.

Reaching the threshold of adolescence, it has been observed that the youth in the country is consuming violent and repulsive content, like the TikTok video by Faizal Siddiqui which promoted acid attacks on women. Yogita says, “I feel TikTok should come out with stricter guidelines to monitor the kind of content that is going up because our children are watching these. And people who violate the rules should be banned and booked criminally. They have to understand that they are influencing the youth in the wrong way, the ripple effect is too much in such cases. We have to set an example for others.”

Several young girls have spoken about how they are against feminism because they feel it is focussed on male-bashing and is anti-men. To this, she says, “People are misusing the word feminism, bashing men and anti-men is not what feminism is about.”

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.