For over a month now, Deepak Rao and his friends have been going to colleges and interacting with students about women and safety issues.
“Their first reaction is always to send culprits to the gallows. Every day, we come across many things that denigrate women in all sorts of ways. We have to urge them not to react emotionally, but look into a social analysis of customs, practices and belief systems,” Mr. Rao said.
Mr. Rao was a participant at a rally at Marina beach on Thursday, organised by several NGOs to commemorate One Billion Rising (OBR), a worldwide campaign aimed at bringing an end to violence against women.
Volunteers and activists from several NGOs, elected representatives, legal professionals, actors, artists and city residents participated in the day-long programme, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day. Flashmobs, marches, singing events and dances were held in about 200 countries marking the campaign, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day.
“The recent case of acid attack victim Vinodhini is a reminder that women face violence everyday. We need to get up and say, enough is enough,” said Esther, a volunteer with the Indian Community Welfare Organisation, one of the many NGOs who took part in the event.
Other participants had a lot to say too. “Every household has women and she faces acts of abuse every day – right from getting verbally abused to being groped in a bus. All of this has to stop,” said Nalayini, a homemaker from Tondiyarpet who had come with her friends to participate in the rally. Nain Kukreja, another social worker said, “We need to raise our voice because we have to fight. We can no longer depend on others to do it for us.”
Nearly 30 women from Vidya Sagar, an organisation that works in the area of disability also participated in the event.
Men too, took part in the event. M. Surendran, an arts student said, “Rape and sexual abuse are not women’s issues. They are problems the society needs to prevent.”
OBR was started on Valentines Day, 1998 by Eve Ensler a famous playwright and activist, with a group of women in New York city
As part of the same campaign, the Young Women’s Christian Association organised a panel discussion for 300 women from self-help groups in Otteri and Aminjikarai. Women from the YWCA Community College and other educational institutions participated in the event too.
Geeta Ramaseshan, an advocate spoke about probabilities of violence in public places. She cited several previous incidents of women being abuse right from Jessica Lal to Sarika Shah. U. Vasuki, general secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association said rape had become such a common act that people have become insensitive to it. She said violence against women in families was another issue to be taken seriously.
Members of the Hindu Munnani protested at the beach opposing Valentine’s Day celebrations. Certain members of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam were also seen shouting slogans against the opposition.