At Cubbon Park, women stand up to be counted

Giving testimonials: Participants at a programme held as part of One Billion Rising movement, at Cubbon Park in Bengaluru on Sunday.  

Women took the stage in Cubbon Park on Sunday with stories of grit and resilience at the Bengaluru leg of One Billion Rising, a global movement started in 2012 against all forms of gender violence. Many of the speakers had suffered sexual or physical violence in their lives or been harassed for who they were, but had fought back to stand on their own feet.

One of these survivors, Geetha Shinde, was 25 when her husband of five years poured chemical on her eyes and blinded her for life. The reason? She had got a raise at the parlour she was working in Chennai and her husband felt threatened by his wife earning more than him.

“I went to every eye hospital in the city, not one could give me my eyesight back,” said Ms. Shinde , who left her husband and moved back to her home town, Bengaluru. In the 30 years since, she has learnt to stand on her own feet, and live a life of peace. “I moved back to Bengaluru and after convincing others that I was able to do certain procedures I had learnt as a beautician, I got a job in a parlour here,” she told the over hundred men and women who had gathered for the event.

Among those who gave their testimonials were sex workers, transgender activists and tribal women. “I have accepted that I am a man, and society should accept it too,” said transgender activist Christy from Sangama. Sex worker Tulasi spoke of the travails she faced since she was sold by her family at the age of 11. “Today, I try to protect those who have fallen victim to sex work, and give them a dignified life,” said Ms. Tulasi, who had covered her face as she spoke to the crowd.

Community events

Earlier in the morning, community events were held at Nayandahalli, Bhoopasandra and Jeevan Bima Nagar. The programme at Cubbon Park began with drum beats by women drummers. Poems were recited on domestic violence, identity politics and female infanticide. The event was supported by Garment and Textile Workers Union, Blank Noise, Amnesty India, Alternative Law Forum, Aasra, Karnataka Sex Workers Union, and other gender rights organisations.

The One Billion Rising movement kicked off after the World Health Organization reported that one in three women, i.e. nearly one billion of the world’s population, experience sexual or physical violence at some point in their lives. Every year, events are held in various cities around the world from the end of January until February 14.

‘The words of women matter less’

Attending the One Billion Rising programme here on Sunday was Sajida Begum, founder-director of Aasra, a women’s helpline in the city.

Founded in 2010, Aasra helps women in Bengaluru facing domestic violence, sexual harassment and harassment over dowry, particularly from minority communities. “Every day, we get nearly 35 to 40 calls from women in distress,” said Ms. Begum, and added, “There are so many ways a woman is put down — women come to us saying they are beaten at home, or their salaries taken away from them by their husbands.”

As far as possible, volunteers at Aasra try to resolve matters through counselling, without taking the recourse of police or courts. “The police are not that helpful to us. Aurton ki kam suni jaati hai (The words of women matter less), and often the men pay their way through,” said Ms. Begum.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 9:27:52 AM |

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