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Fighting domestic violence in India includes getting women to love themselves, says a Bell Bajao volunteer.
By Amrita Sengupta
India is a country of love and where else to understand the essence of the same but our very own Bollywood that glorifies love with its innate qualities of acceptance, tolerance and sacrifice. The heart weeps and the soul aches. However, ironically when the reel’s fantasies are draped on reality ‘love’ becomes the sole responsibility of the woman. A woman is supposed to accept, tolerate and sacrifice for her husband, family and children. But is this submission supposed to be at the cost of the woman’s honour, self-respect and safety? Is a man’s honour quantified by the physical scars on his family? Can violence and fear form the foundation of a happy house?
Domestic violence is an act against humanity and is punishable by law. Breakthrough is trying to raise a voice against the same.
Breakthrough had started the ‘Bell Bajao’ campaign to reach out to each member of society and try to convey to them that the fight against domestic violence is not just the wife’s or the family’s responsibility but should be shouldered by each person who is a witness to the same. As part of the campaign, the organisation started a van that tried to reach interiors, cores and peripheries of different cities to convey that each individual of the society needs to take the responsibility to fight against domestic violence. I got a fine opportunity to be with the van in Delhi. This is a journal of my day with the van.
On February 27th I travelled with the van to Nangloi, a town in West Delhi. With the coming of the metro and the subsequent development of infrastructure in the area, Nangloi has fast grown as an industrial belt. The development is evident in the confidence it has brought in its people. Hence I thought it was quite interesting to visit the place with the van; has the change in livelihood and living standards altered viewpoints towards gender equality?
First, the van parked near the Nangloi metro station. As it gradually set up its posters and began its activities, it attracted curious pedestrians who eagerly flocked around the van. Though primarily men crowded the area, one could see women at a distance inquisitively eyeing the events in progress. I asked one lady, “Why don’t you go closer and participate?” She shyly said, “Too many boys around.” It was said so innocently that one could not but smile, yet the conviction in the tone revealed discomfort and fear.
My friend, the Breakthrough representative at the site, handed me some leaflets with information about domestic violence and its legal parameters to distribute among the crowd. While distributing these, I came across an elderly couple. I explained to them the contents and as I was to hand the pamphlet to the lady, she gestured me to give it to her husband. The uncle was quite nice when he said, “You kids are doing a good job on a Sunday but this doesn’t happen in our area”.
I smiled and humbly responded, “Uncle, I am sure it might not but it would be a huge help if you could take these and pass it on to people who might need it.” I passed ahead and made my way through the crowd but their denial followed me in my thoughts.
Throughout, there had been a group of young girls near the van who enthusiastically watched the events. However, after an hour, when their mother had to return home, she didn’t allow the girls to stay back. When I asked the mother, she very strongly answered back, “As long as I am around I am not afraid of anyone; no one dares raise an eye to any of my daughters. But it doesn’t look good if the girls are by themselves among so many boys”.
As long as I am around I am not afraid of anyone; no one dares raise an eye to any of my daughters. But it doesn’t look good if the girls are by themselves among so many boys.
Post lunch, the van moved to the interiors and parked in a colony. The response was inspiring. Women came forth with their grievances. A number of them shared their personal problems, eager to be heard. However the men did seem a little nonchalant. In fact, a few were suspicious and loud about their disregard for the van. “You are spoiling our women”, “YOU come for a day and then disappear but you ignite the sparks that destroys households.” The volunteers were quick in their responses and fantastically calmed and managed the crowd. Nonetheless, these statements were very powerful and must be thoroughly understood to understand our responsibilities towards the issue.
Domestic violence is not just an attempt to subdue or control women; domestic violence is an attempt to make woman lose her identity. We live in a period when each individual carries a huge burden of responsibilities, and thus stress, towards one’s profession, family and self. The only solace that one does seek is amongst their loved ones in the warm protection of their homes. But imagine if one was afraid of these much loved ones and petrified of being in their own house? If one was forced to live in fear, forced to never be what they truly are, forced to forget their desires, their opinions and their choices, to believe that you have brought on yourself each ounce of pain that strikes your body? To live in such fear where one loses oneself in self doubt, humiliation and pity…such fear is truly worse than death itself; a slow poison and a cruel torture.
Breakthrough and Action India, together, sure had put in all efforts to make it a very festive and an engaging event; however one could not ignore the undercurrent at Nangloi. As I stood in the crowd, hearing and observing the people and their interaction with the volunteers, it dawned upon me that perhaps years of tolerance and patriarchal tutoring have made people, and women in particular accept and ignore violence. Fear and hence silence, respect and hence acceptance or ignorance and hence denial?
Our job is thus not only to fight domestic violence but to make women fall in love with themselves again. We have to ensure that women understand that the fight against domestic violence is not a fight to break homes but an attempt to make home a secured and a loved abode. We have to teach each person that love might hurt but if it begins to scar and bruise, physically or mentally, it definitely is abuse: illegal, inappropriate and inhuman.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, had once said, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” I truly hope that with this van and with Breakthrough’s initiatives, ignorance becomes one of the least reasons for a man to raise his fist on his family or a woman.
All images copyrighted to Breakthrough.
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