Today is the start of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. Violence in any form, and against anyone should be condemned, without fear or favour, and across all barriers of religion, class, race and nationality. However, there are certain segments within our society that are more vulnerable than others, and such activism helps focus attention on their plight.
Women, especially in all societies are struggling to find a level playing field and break the chains that have traditionally bound them to a secondary position. There are societies where they have been able to make strides, bit look around you? What do you see?
Do you see them as equal human beings? Do they get the respect they deserve? What happens to them if they try to claim their space in the public sphere? Are they allowed to control their own destiny? Take their own decisions?
Have they been provided equal opportunities? It is not just the men who discriminate against women… societal norms have dictated attitudes that perpetuate male superiority… by women too. A mother gives better food to her son, she may also give preference to him for healthcare, and if resources are in short supply, the boys education is continued while the girl child’s is stopped. If a mother can do this to her child, is it any surprise that we hear of mothers in laws and sisters’ in law abusing the newcomer in the family?
However, that form of violence cannot happen unless there is tacit approval from the authoritarian figures at home, who are usually males. Then there violence within relationships; between husbands and wives, ‘friends’, brothers and sisters, of grandparents and uncles upon the females of the family do are not submissive to authority. Violence that can take the form of extreme torture and even death.
And what about the workspace. People usually associate it with harassment in offices. Yes, that does take place, but various progressive measures are being taken to tackle it. What about domestic workers, or women working in the factory floors, or in the fields, and at brick kilns? They are just as prone to violence by their employers and colleagues. How much recourse to law do they have to lodge complaints and get relief. Especially as they are usually economically dependent on their tormentors for survival.
Usually an umbrella of religion, culture and traditions is held up to justify these heinous crimes. The pressure to submit to these without asking any questions is so great that it has stagnated the society which has forced half of its population to a sub human level. No religion condones it, and any culture and tradition that does, should just be thrown out of our lives.
Be a part of the change. Speak up against violence wherever you see it. This is a struggle of the powerless against the powerful. Put your weight behind the powerless and become their protectors; in your homes, in your educational institutions, in your workplace or out there in the public sphere.
Become an activist through your actions, as well as written and spoken word. Fill these 16 days with conscious activities so you can also claim credit for change for the better. When you see any form of violence against women, be it emotional, physical do you speak up?
If you haven’t done so in the past, would you now be willing to Speak for Change?