Gender activist group Equal Community Foundation published a video of a minor on Twitter on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan in which he was seen wearing a bindi and mangalsutra. In the tweet, the group wrote, “Shreyas, our #ActionForEqualilty participant, pledges not to pass comments at girls or make them uncomfortable in any way. P.S. – Notice the bindi and mangalsutra he is wearing to protest the need for women to “look married” or be the “property” of their husbands. #RakshaBandh”
Instead of #RakshaBandhan, the Equal Community Foundation used the hashtag #RakshaBandh to ‘smash the patriarchy’. The tweet and use of the minor boy in the video attract a lot of criticism on social media platforms. While some Twitter users tagged Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani to look into the problematic tweet, others criticised the group and called the video absurd.
Smita Deshmukh wrote, “Why do boys have to wear a bindi and is it mangalsutra to ensure that they treat women equally? This is absurd. Stop this nonsense. Men need not be like women to understand them. Education and values are important. It looks like social media woke campaign.”
Why do boys have to wear a bindi and is it mangalsutra to ensure that they treat women equally? This is absurd. Stop this nonsense. Men need not be like women to understand them. Education and values are important. Looks like social media woke campaign— Smita Deshmukh 🇮🇳 (@smitadeshmukh) August 22, 2021
Another user questioned how they could use a young child for a propaganda video.
How old is this child? Why is a child being used for activism? @NCWIndia— Baspan Ka Pyaar (@BaspanKaPyaar) August 22, 2021
Raj said, “ECF India has gone crazy! Spreading your agenda through young boys! Shameful!”
One Twitter user called out Equal Community Foundation for demeaning Hindu festivals by creating the hashtag RakshaBandh. She wrote, “What nonsense. Demeaning our #Rakshabandan festival by creating a # RakshaBandh. Demeaning our sacred Mangalsutra, Bindi etc. Using an innocent boy for your bigotry.”
Tanmay questioned if the group is willing to question rituals of other religions and said, “Give children moral &cultural values, raise them as good humans but spare them from your agenda. And don’t use cultural symbols for your demean us. Bindi & Mangalsutra is a choice, it’s not like a woman is a property of some man. Can you say the same about wedding rings among Christians.”
Dextrocardiac1 said, “No need to make the child suffer from gender dysphoria just to make him understand how to respect women, it can be down in a way more respectful way than these cheap theatrics.”
Equal Community Foundation: History of using minor boys for propaganda
According to ECF’s website, the organisation was founded in 2009. In its organisational strategy, the group claims that out of 230 million boys in India that are under the age of 18, over 115 million are estimated to use physical violence and 60 million to be involved in sexual violence, including rape. The group believes that six crore boys in India are possible rapists of the future!
So, in order to “tackle the epidemic by raising every boy in India to be gender-equitable”, they created the organisation with a possible outcome to raise “Gender Equitable Boys”. The group states that they have “remarkable success” towards their mission. Interestingly, in its strategy document, the group referred to a link ecf.org/data, the screenshot of the page can be seen below.
When we tried to visit the linked research papers, none of the links worked. The UNICEF report was removed from their website, and the other research documents they referred to were nowhere to be found as the website they referred to (http://unwomen-asiapacific.org) no longer exisst. We did find “https://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en”, which is an UN-affiliated website, but we were unable to spot the studies they referred to on this website as well.
The claim “57% justify violence against women. 50% will or are likely to use physical violence, and 25% will or are likely to be involved in rape” on their website has no backing as of now. Yet, the group is actively running propaganda among minor children and making videos using them.
The video in question is not the only video that ECF has posted while trying to defame Raksha Bandhan. The #Rakshabandh campaign started in 2018, and initially, they used adult men and women for the campaign. Tweets by the group can be seen here. Later, in 2019, they started using children for the campaign and posted the first video with a child on August 8, 2019.
In 2020, the campaign continued, and they started to include minor girls in the campaign too.
This year, they started the campaign on August 14, and the first video with a minor boy was posted on August 16.
After the initial tweet, multiple tweets with several minor boys and girls were posted by the group on social media platforms.
OpIndia has blurred the faces of minor children used in the videos by ECF to conceal their identity.