In 2012, the world watched India with intent, and quiet hope, as masses of its women, men, fathers, daughters, activists, non-activists, and everyone in between stood, as a nation united in grief, crying for justice for Nirbhaya.
From the outside, it looked like there was not a single individual in the country who was not appalled at the terrible, tragic circumstances to which one of India’s women lost her life. Amid such anger and pain, it seemed that India was truly on the brink of something revolutionary.
The dramatic scenes that were televised on screens across the world showed a nation no longer willing to accept the abhorrent crimes against women that had been exposed in truly the most horrifying of ways.
And whilst it is argued that little has changed, the nation’s reaction did, to some degree, force the nation to face the issue head-on and acted as a catalyst that lessened the element of shame that had been gripping the word rape.
Since the end of 2012, many individuals and organisations have refused to let the issue simply go back to being one that quietly continues unchallenged. These people are making efforts to tackle the issue in their own small ways. From keeping the issue in the public eye, to spreading awareness, to making attempts at re-drawing the way rape is shown by the media, their actions are demonstrating a refusal to back down whilst working towards an India that simply has no space for sexual violence against its women.
Here are just a few of them:
Breakthrough India is a community organisation and NGO making efforts to change the narrative of rape survivors in mainstream media. They recently ran an event called Redraw Misogyny where they made a call for gender conscious designers, illustrators, photographers and artists to design images that give rape survivors an empowered narrative, and one which doesn’t show them as helpless or ashamed. In doing so, the organisation hopes to change the perception of sexual violence and gender-based violence that is currently portrayed through the images used to represent survivors in the Indian media which largely show women looking helpless, ashamed, or both.
The campaign asks:
“When you watch a story on gender-based violence, what image is attached to it? Have you noticed the way these images portray survivors of the violence? What does it make you feel about them? Do you feel sorry? Do you feel like they’re powerless? Do you even focus on the perpetrator?”
An image bank is currently being put together and once finished the empowered images will be available copyright-free so that media brands can access them and use them without restrictions.
You can keep up to date with the campaign here.
Kolkata artist Sujatro Ghosh’s Holy Cow campaign
In a recent project, artist Sujatro Ghosh boldly asks India, ‘are cows safer than the countries women?’ in a bid to get the country talking about the way it views it’s women.
Using photos of women posing whilst wearing a cows head mask in daily situations, the artist hopes to address the inequality faced by India’s women, by drawing comparison to the nation’s veneration to its holy cows.
“The core issue is women’s rights and protection. I’m not against protecting cows, I love animals. But I’m concerned about my country’s sociopolitical scenario,” Ghosh told the Guardian, UK.
Whilst Sujatro’s intentions are solely on raising awareness of the plight of women in India and in turn bringing about change, the project has caused some controversy in the wake of India’s current issue with cow vigilantism. One article published in the Daily O for example asks, “comparing women’s safety to cow vigilantism is as good as saying that we should have mob lynching of rapists. Would that be ok? To take the law into your hands and apply mob rule is ridiculous no matter what the crime.”
The Red Brigade
Women and girls in Lucknow are being empowered to defend themselves from sexual violation through self-defense classes. Most of the girls are survivors of rape and sexual abuse themselves who now dedicate many hours to spreading awareness on the issue and petitioning for increased measures in women’s safety.
The initiative was started by Usha Vishwakarma after a co-worker tried to sexually assault her at the age of 18. The Red Brigade has become a large movement of empowered females determined to ensure that all young women and girls do not have to live in fear each time they step out of their houses.
You can learn more about The Red Brigade here.
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Priya is a comic book superhero fighting against the social stigma of rape in India conjured up by Indian-American filmmaker Ram Devineni. The storylines in which Priya features are an attempt to defy India’s overarching misogynistic and patriarchal views and help redefine attitudes and beliefs toward sexual violence against women. The comics, which are free to download online, combine potent Indian mythology with the accessibility of popular culture to connect with readers and promote social change.
You can find out more about Priya, here.
MAVA – Men Against Violence and Abuse
Many are in agreeance that tackling the issue of rape must begin with changing the mindset of the individuals who commit the crime itself. Raising men who respect women plays a crucial part in addressing the issue, and acts as a preventative solution, and not just a response to a problem.
MAVA is a community of men who work to empower woman through the ‘humanization of men.’ The journey of MAVA is to get more and more men come in touch with their ‘other’ man, that is the one who seeks to reject the role expected of him from society. Community members believe that it is only when men break the moulds of society and express rather than suppress their emotions, they can become less violent towards women.
MAVA run a series of programmes including counselling, for both men and women, gender sensitization, pre-marital guidance, self-defence classes for women as well as workshops on specific issues.
You can find out more about MAVA, here.
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