Throughout the year, we have days dedicated to Mothers, Fathers, Children, Brothers and even Lovers. It seems like there is a day for everything. Whilst I don’t particularly care to patronise any of the above days, I do believe in my humble opinion, that the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is one of the most important periods in the year.
So what exactly is 16 Days of Activism to end Gender Based Violence?
As the name suggests, it is a time to raise awareness across the world about gender-based violence. It commences every year on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day.
Unfortunately we need these 16 days to remind us that gender-based violence is a daily reality for millions of women. It is a global pandemic that affects 1 in 3 women at least once in their lifetime, according to UN Women. This violence is sexual, physical, emotional and financial in nature and it is targeted toward women because of their gender.
This violence is very real and present in India. Every day we read at least one incident in the newspapers which is shocking and disturbing. From a foreign tourist being assaulted in a 5 star hotel to an 8th standard girl being gang raped by her fellow students to several child rapes. While the sheer volume of stories and the vastness of the problem may feel overwhelming and insurmountable, events like the 16 Days can give us concrete actions to take to help make a difference.
So how can we contribute to end Gender-Based Violence (GBV):
When someone tells you their story of GBV, suspend judgement and listen with empathy. Believe them. Try not to find excuses for the cause but find ways to help the survivor heal and to eliminate GBV.
Know your rights and be knowledgeable about the various legislations on sexual violence, Domestic Violence, Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. A ready reference is provided here.
Know the various helpline numbers – Police 100, Women’s Helpline 1091, Childline 1098, Elderline 1090 /103, Railway helpline 182, Ambulance 102 and Fire Brigade 101 and feed them into your phone.
Be situationally aware and alert when you are in public spaces. For example, always SMS the number of the taxi or auto to yourself and a family member or friend. If you enjoy jogging or running, always do so in familiar, well lit areas. While waiting for transport or parking your car, devote your full attention to the situation.
Be an active bystander and find help for those who need it. For example, if you see some men harassing a woman, pretend you are her friend, go up and say hello. Or you can even call a helpline number or create a diversion.
After all GBV is NOT a woman’s issue alone but it is a societal issue.