Panellists draw women’s attention to the causes of their present plight, and offer solutions.

Women need to appear more in public spaces, bond with other women and create forums where they can openly discuss all issues concerning their safety, family, and livelihood. Women themselves should change, get out of their ‘victim-status,’ and help other women find themselves.

When Chief Post Master General, Kerala, Sobha Koshy said this, she was voicing the united sentiments of all women who had gathered at the panel discussion, ‘From Victim to Victor: How soon, how far?”, organised by The Hindu in association with India Vision here on Friday, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Allianz was the presenting sponsor for the event which was supported by the State Bank of Travancore, NIMS Medicity, and 92.7 Big FM

The discussion touched upon various dimensions of gender inequalities which spur violence against women, deep-rooted patriarchal values which seem to have conditioned the mindset of both men and women, and the role of the media in bringing out violence against women while committing the folly of celebrating victimhood at the same time.

Change in society

J. Devika, Associate Professor, Centre for Development Studies, pointed out that Kerala used to be a society where women had more space. But the change had been so drastic that today we had a gender-distinct, compartmentalised society.

Sonia George, general secretary of SEWA union, said the number of single-women-run households in Kerala had been growing.

But even though over 70 per cent of women in Kerala were engaged in some work outside homes, they no longer figured in the official statistics, she said.

Media

Women working in unorganised sectors had no safety or security, but their counterparts in the organised sectors were fighting hard to survive in male-dominated workplaces, she said.

Editor of The Hindu Siddharth Varadarajan pointed out that the surge in social consciousness in the past three months about issues of gender violence, in the aftermath of the Delhi rape case, was something for which media could justifiably claim credit.

“The fact that it triggered so much of outrage and media attention, opened the door for us (the media) to focus in a concerted fashion on issues such as women’s security, safety at work place, the work environment and the other freedoms that women should rightfully have to live as equal citizens. There needs to be concerted media attention on these issues,” he said.

R.V.G. Menon, educationist, felt that the conflict over gender inequalities descended into a sphere of violence in Kerala because it tried to assimilate the social changes which occurred in the West in 300 years, in three or four generations.

The men in Kerala were yet to recover from the mental trauma of having to accept women as their equals, he said.

Minister for Social Justice M.K. Muneer; B. Sandhya, ADGP; and cine actor Lakshmi Gopalaswamy participated in the discussions.