Saturday, Nov 16, 2013, New Delhi: Putting the onus on every individual and all stakeholders to create a safe environment for women, UN Women, UNICEF and the Indian Women Press Corps (IWP) reiterated that violence against women must end. Panelists at the session highlighted that increasing awareness is a first step toward modifying attitudes, behaviours and policies towards violence.
Heightened public awareness can lead to increased dialogue, support the transformation of attitudes and reinforce the idea that violence can be prevented by highlighting successful violence prevention efforts and movements at all levels, with a particular focus on national and local initiatives.
Leading the panel discussion, Nandita Das, Actor and UNICEF celebrity advocate said, “I firmly believe that identifying and addressing the root causes of violence and the social norms that allow it to perpetuate, is a very important step in creating safer, healthier and more productive societies.”
Explaining the excessive nature of violence faced by marginalised groups, Asha Kowtal of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, said that the caste structure invariably leads to women’s exploitation. Belief in the concept of superiority by birth allows upper caste men, and sometimes women too, to perpetrate violence against lower caste women. The excessive public humiliation, such as naked public parading, tonsuring, etc, that invariably follows the act of violence adds to the stigma, said Kowtal. “The dream for gender justice cannot be achieved in a caste stratified society like ours. Together we need to dismantle institutions that reek of patriarchy and caste to build a better word for all women- from margins to the centre, from the poorest to the most empowered women.”
Researcher Kalpana Vishwanath, who has been the force behind Jagori’s Safe Delhi for Women campaign, spoke about the “everydayness” of violence that women are faced with and how this “fear of facing violence” shapes women’s experience of a city. “More and more people are beginning to live in cities, and the very nature of an urbanised environment lends to increased incidence of violence,” said Vishwanath, who has co-founded the mobile app Safetipin. The app, released earlier this week for Delhi, works on the crowdsourcing principle to audit localities to determine if the areas are safe for women.
Policing is not the only thing that will make a city safe, said Vishwanath. “Other institutions and public service providers, such as transport and PWD officials, too are needed to improve safety.”
Talking about how violence against women is a global and regional problem, Anju Pandey, programme officer for UN Women’s Ending Violence Against Women campaign, said that the media must also report on victims of violence in rural areas as the marginalised often don’t have a redress mechanism. “Social apathy needs to change to empathy,” said Pandey. “Laws can only do so much. Social attitudes and legal recourse must evolve hand-in-hand.”
Emphasizing the fact that girls are among the most vulnerable in society and face multiple forms of discrimination and violence, Dora Giusti, Child Protection Specialist UNICEF India said, “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child everywhere has the right to be protected from all forms of violence and protecting children, especially adolescent girls is at the heart of these campaigns. Through the red siren campaign, UNICEF has been able to generate a sustainable discourse on this issue, engaging people from diverse walks of life. It has enabled us to make these invisible issues VISIBLE.”
The discussion is a collaborative effort of the organizations to take forward the UN Secretary General’s campaign – UNiTE to End Violence against Women and Girls. In November, UN organisations in India are focusing on joint advocacy in support of the global UNiTe campaign.