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  • 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

    THE DAY FOR THE Elimination of Violence against Women passed yesterday and kicked off 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. Sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, the 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:

    • raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
    • strengthening local work around violence against women
    • establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
    • providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
    • demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
    • creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women

    Not much in the Indian press about it except a few whimpers here and here though I’m wondering if the cringe-worthy hyperbole of the latter will do us more harm than good: “She lies there like a lifeless ragdoll beaten black and blue by the beast, She complains not, only her eyes well up with tears, precious tears Her muffled sobs an expression of her torture and torment She knows not for what she lives Always at the receiving end of her callous man’s ire and reproof She beats her breast in dismay…”. Good god. There should be a law against writing so badly, even if it is for a good cause. All I found in The Hindu was an article on Nov 26 being World Anti-Obesity Day. Frankly, I am surprised at this silence.

    Infochange India, one of our favourite alternative news sources, has a special report on violence against women rising in Kerala. Aleyamma Vijayan answers the question of why a state that boasts India’s highest literacy levels should witness a 300% increase in violence against women.

    Literacy and education do not change mindsets. In a deeply patriarchal society, education teaches women to be good wives and mothers. This attitude has been supplemented by missionary education, which brought with it a Victorian morality.

    In this context, one must remember that Kerala is at the forefront of suicides in the country; around 36% of them are a result of family or marital problems. One would assume that large-scale migration out of Kerala to other countries has resulted in a change in attitude. But most people from this state go to work in the countries of the Middle East which are extremely traditional in their outlook towards women.

    So here, factors like education and international exposure are debilitating rather than liberating in any way. This is something that’s been bothering me for a while, ever since Gita Aravamudan, author of Disappearing Daughters, pointed out that female foeticide is also more prevalent in richer, better-educated homes. I grew up on a staple diet of cliches regarding the world and social change and one of them had to do with education being the panacea for all ills. When will men stop beating up women? When will people not fight on religious grounds? When will caste be abolished? When everybody is educated. Were others also similarly reassured or was I the only one conned in this manner?

    But of course, it is foolish to expect that ‘educated’ men and women will automatically behave in a particular manner when we have no fix on the nature of this education in the first place. The specifics of what education comprises differs from state to state, city to city, school to school. And as Vijayan points out, a vast majority of educational institutions are highly patriarchal.

    I was lucky enough to attend a school and, particularly, a college that stood very strongly for women’s rights. (We even had a paper on Feminism as part of our BA course in English Literature and I suspect this changed my life in many ways.) This probably added to the misconception that education could truly change misogynistic or unbalanced attitudes. But the fact is that a vast majority of schools are run in a haphazard manner with idiots posturing as teachers. Children are encouraged to ask no questions and burdened with antiquated morals such as blind obedience, all of which build towards a culture of submissiveness. Girl children receive these messages at home as well, unlike boys who are let free to run and play or given larger helpings of food and treated like little gods. Little wonder then that when girls grow up to be women and receive a few sound whacks in their husband’s homes, they don’t even realise they should be complaining. They don’t even see it as “violence” a lot of the time.

    Coming back to where I started off from, editors and senior journalists of prominent newspapers obviously do not think this is an issue worth discussing. So there is no series of columns giving insights into the various aspects and implications. No “Lead India”-like campaign in ToI. No railing editorials from aging and mostly senile columnists. (Shashi Tharoor, when you’re done with lamenting the fact that we Indian women are not wearing the sari any more, you think you could turn your attention to this?)

    I get the disturbing sense that violence against women is so accepted within the framework of our society, something that we have become so used to, that it ceases to even horrify anymore.

    Meanwhile, can you name 16 forms of violence against women? Are you sure you don’t know anyone facing one of these? Are you sure you’re not facing one of these yourself?

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    23 Responses

    1. “editors and senior journalists of prominent newspapers obviously do not think this is an issue worth discussing”

      Or maybe they just aren’t impressed with this initiative. It’s always convenient to blame media apathy, isn’t it? Especially when the flip side of ‘apathy’ is bad PR. I can’t say the six bullet point of list you provide inspires much confidence – it seems unfocused and bureaucratic, less an agenda for action and more a laundry list put together by some feckless intern trying to see how many sentences he / she can make with the words violence against women. It certainly doesn’t provide any aspects, implications or even information.

      I’m not saying the media isn’t apathetic. I’m saying that precisely because the media has little incentive to disrupt the status quo (just as formal education systems will, in general, always tend to perpetuate the existing social order – that’s what they’re there for – isn’t that obvious?) the question we should be asking ourselves is how we can manage and manipulate the media to focus attention on the issues we care about. Everything else is just whining.

      It’s interesting that you expect the media to turn out ‘insightful’ columns (when was the last time you saw anything of that description in the ToI anyway?) discussing implications of domestic violence, just because someone declared this ‘Violence against women’ week, but your own post here doesn’t actually provide any ‘implications’ that I can see – gives no information about the campaign (what does it actually do?) except pointing us to a badly-designed website, discusses no actual efforts to help protect women from violence, and basically, tells us little we didn’t already know. Even the Infochange report you point to seems purely speculative and begs the question – how much of this ‘increase’ is just an increase in the percentage of violence reported? If that’s the best you can come up with, then it’s hardly surprising that the media is infinitely worse.

    2. @Falstaff
      Wow, that’s quite a long and vehement comment and I have a few things to say in response.

      On this: “Or maybe they just aren’t impressed with this initiative. It’s always convenient to blame media apathy, isn’t it? Especially when the flip side of ‘apathy’ is bad PR.” Yes, it’s possible that they are not impressed with the initiative. However, I find it hard to believe that compared to some of the other stuff covered in the oped pages (Internet piracy in France?) that this lost out because of relevance. The flip side of apathy is probably bad PR. I don’t know what you know of Indian media but social issues don’t have any PR mechanisms here usually. The stories that get covered are because of media initiative. Those that don’t are because of lack of it.

      The laundry list, as you call it, is simple, I agree. But most NGO / dev org objectives tend to be. Because the issues have solutions that are complex in implementation, not in how they are framed on paper.

      “It certainly doesn’t provide any aspects, implications or even information.” Because it is simple, I would think it doesn’t require detailed qualifications to go along with it. Raise awareness. How difficult is that to understand? To simplify further, tell people. Talk about it. Which is a large part of a lot of activism.

      The badly designed website — can’t take credit for that. The org that started the movement designed it. I’m not in the mood to argue GUI with them. Feel free. Perhaps, better design and more eloquent objectives will help the cause.

      “It’s interesting that you expect the media to turn out ‘insightful’ columns (when was the last time you saw anything of that description in the ToI anyway?)”
      A while so should we shut up? We also haven’t been able to expect much from various state govts in the recent past? Should we shut up about that as well? And yes, I do expect information and insight from the media. I’m sorry you think this is so unreasonable.

      Lastly, UV does not claim to be a media outlet. We are not in the business of enlightening you. We are not in business at all, in fact. This is just us, a bunch of women, feminist, talking about life. In India. Things we think and things that affect us. Some of us are more enlightening than others. Some are merely opinionated or informative. Some are funnier, or more poetic. With time, I hope the voices will get even more diverse.

      Some people like some of what they read. Some people find some of it useful. You didn’t like this or you clearly found it useless. Fair enough. Please do look around and leave your comments on something you do like (if you do like it). Will help us understand better what readers are looking for. As always, thanks for your comments.

    3. anindita: Ah, but the point is precisely that it’s time social issues in India started having PR. Especially because the media is apathetic and idiotic.

      I’m not suggesting for a moment that we should “shut up” because the ToI is unintelligent. On the contrary, I’m suggesting that precisely because it’s so unintelligent it’s unrealistic to expect that all we need to do is hold some kind of conference / initiative in Rutgers and it’ll get covered by them (did anyone even send these guys a press release?), and ridiculous to be disappointed when that doesn’t happen; and that we should be calling for better communication / media strategies to help get the message out. You say you expect information and insight from the media. But what is that expectation based on? Certainly not anything in their past record.

      You say the point of the campaign is to raise awareness. (if that’s true, btw, and it’s really that simple then why not just say so, instead of subjecting us to a six bullet point list that says nothing?) All the more reason to have a well-thought PR strategy and a clear action-oriented website, no? My impression from glancing through the website was that it was some kind of conference / support initiative for NGOs / development organizations working with women – certainly not something focussed on reaching out to society in general. Obviously you’re not to blame for the quality of their website. But it’s interesting that you put all of the blame on the ‘apathetic’ media and don’t consider criticizing CGWL for their poor communication.

      The point is that if the objective here is to raise awareness then this initiative is doing a particularly bad job of it. Part of that is certainly media apathy, but part of it is also a complete disregard for good communication / media management, and while we can keep complaining about how the media is apathetic till we’re blue in the face, the more useful discussion, in my opinion, is how we can try to communicate better so that maybe the next time around we do get media coverage. Trying to raise awareness with no PR and bad communication is just setting yourself up for failure.

      Finally, I’m a little confused by what you mean by UV not being a media outlet. I may be wrong, but I thought the point of this blog was to a) raise awareness about gender issues and b) serve as a forum for public discussion about gender issues, and, hopefully, shape some of the social discourse on gender rights. That to me, is ‘media’.

      If you’re saying that’s not where you want to go – if the idea is to have a forum where a bunch of women (did you really mean ‘women’, btw? Your guidelines say gender’s no bar to writing for you) can post rants and freewheeling thoughts without being held to logical examination or criticism, then that’s fine – I’ll just stop reading. If the idea, however (and this is my impression so far) is to put up pieces that you’ve really thought about and are willing to stand behind / engage in discussions on, then you can’t dodge the bullet by saying “we’re not in the business of enlightening you” (incidentally, you do see the irony in putting up a post to raise awareness and then saying we’re not here to enlighten you, don’t you?) or that “this is just us”. You’re either looking to have your opinions questioned and debated, or you’re not.

      Since you asked for this (and you did, you know :-)) my more general comment is that I think the site has great potential, but I don’t think it’s living up to it yet. Several of the pieces you’ve put up have been reasonably informative or well-written and I like that the forum’s out there – but I can’t help feeling that too much of what you’re saying is tame and uncontroversial. Part of what makes feminism interesting and vital is the extent of active debate it encompasses, and I see little or none of that here. Yet. It’s not that I disagree with the things you or others say, it’s just that none of it strikes me as being particularly new or of bringing a fresh perspective to bear. Which is why I rarely leave comments, though I’ve been reading the blog almost from the start. Maybe it’s just me. After all, I’m hardly representative of your target population (or, for that matter, of any population I can think of).

      That, incidentally, is part of what’s driving these comments. I genuinely believe most of what I’m saying above, but I’m exaggerating a little, just to play devil’s advocate. Simply because I think it’s time someone started a real debate on this blog. That and the fact that it’s a slow Monday. I can stop if you like.

    4. […] The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence kicks off today, and Anindita is disappointed with the lack of media coverage in India. […]

    5. @Falstaff
      Thanks for your comments and yes I did ask for them. And for the feedback. I see your point about coming up with constructive solutions as opposed to asking others (people, institutions) to change. I do feel though that both are necessary. You’re right about PR efforts of course. It’s something that is sorely lacking on the NGO front here (and elsewhere it seems). But I’m sure you’ll agree that the media also needs watchdogs.

      Are we a media outlet — in the way you define it certainly, we are. Perhaps, I come from a certain background that tends to mean Media when I say media. Our greatest tool as a democracy, our free press etc. Perhaps, it’s my failing but I cannot yet take blogs as seriously as I take mainstream media and therefore my expectations are different from the the two.

      Did I really mean women — well, so far, we have had only women contributors so I was speaking from a contextual point of view. We are definitely most welcoming of men. Would you like to volunteer? 🙂

      About things we say being tame and uncontroversial, I think you have a point. There are whole areas we haven’t touched yet. Part of the reason is that we’re still trying to strike a level. Sort of like starting at the basics. The problem is also that in India the basics do overwhelm and they cannot be ignored either. I think the ideal would be a balance between the “informative or well-written” and the fresh perspective. We are looking for new writers but feminists are curiously reticent here. Suggestions and references most welcome. We want this space to be useful to different people at different levels and I think the way to do that is get more and different voices. What do you think?

      Thanks for starting a debate. It’s been a rough Monday but this is what we’re here for. Well, sort of.

    6. @Falstaff: I do not agree with you one bit.
      I see no reason why the list of action items is a problem. It is a theme of the year of an event which aims to do those tasks. Calling them a ‘laundry list compiled by a feckless intern” is purely your opinion and I see nothing in what you wrote that compels me to agree with you.
      Bad PR? What are you, a Michael Moore fan? Poorly designed website? uh? You want to see a bad website? Actually, do not follow the link. You might just get infected with malware.
      The CWGL website clearly defines its goals, the events that are taking place across the world and has a lot of information, if you just poke around. I wonder what you were expecting.
      Incentive for the media to report on violence against women? wtf? Heck, they just need to dig into their archives going back for just a month and they will find enough material to make a good report on violence against women (yes, even ToI).
      It is interesting how you put the onus of getting something reported on those who are the subject of the report and not on the media. Ambani has to do all but pick his nose to be given front page space. Weird, nah?
      Much of the feminist issues are mundane stuff, stuff that has been going on eons and yeah, one is apt to get bored by it, particularly when one is not affected by any of it (and perhaps gains from it). Expecting feminists to come up with something unconventional and controversial every time they speak is like expecting a stand up comedian to come up with new jokes everytime they come on stage. You want entertainment for your mind, try the sunday crossword. For a lot of people, it is personal and trivialising them as mundane and as saying “nothing new” is frankly disgusting and in my opinion, disrespectful.
      As a blog, this space has done a good job of bringing together a lot of different voices.

    7. “I get the disturbing sense that violence against women is so accepted within the framework of our society, something that we have become so used to, that it ceases to even horrify anymore.”

      Yes, this is true. It is disturbing, but this is not new. It has always been like this. It is not that Indian society was better before. Indian society hasn’t undergone any particularly ghastly transition period in this regard. It has always been worse. Don’t you think? I bet most people would agree that this is the state of affairs and that though this is a horrible thing, it doesn’t happen in our family. In fact replace “women” with “children” and that would be true too…! This is not taking a cynical attitude, but the point is, there is a whole lot of dehumanization taking place in this context. Not just the victims, but I think there is something very abstract about the way we talk about “forums” and “organizers” etc., here.

      We know that people’s minds are not capable of sustaining the memory of a large-scale violence. We quickly turn them into abstractions, define a term for it, make this term a part of our terminology, use this term with animation in our discussions, feel passionate about it and then…

      Exactly. Unless we are one of the victims, or closely associated with the victim, we move on. We don’t relate. We intellectualize, we pontificate. Or write phrases like, “Little wonder then that when girls grow up to be women and receive a few sound whacks in their husband’s homes, they don’t even realise they should be complaining” A few sound whacks in their husband’s homes? Really?

      Anyway, my point is this: only by bringing individual experiences into the campaign can there be any hope for a rapid escalation in the awareness of violence against women. I think we should think in terms of how to achieve rapid escalation in the awareness, like what we’ve seen in AIDS campaign for example, and not some below the sea-level undercurrent of slow change that supposedly would bring about a change in the attitudes. It won’t happen. I think Falstaff’s point is well taken, in this context.

      By the way, I will say this boldly: Why do you need editors and journalists and “aging and mostly senile columnists” to discuss this issue? Are they privileged? (Don’t tell me that just because they are in the “Media” that their word has a special weight.) What is this looking upto somebody else when you have a blog of your own? Come on…!

      One further point which is actually what I thought of first when I read this post. As long as this issue is not discussed in terms of particular, individual stories, is not generating any suggestions for actions to prevent such violence, we are just one opinion-maker talking to another opinion-maker. But since when did you and I change our behavior just because we read some statistics-filled, top-down all-embracing six bullet points which read like either our charter should solve world’s problem or nothing? It is a tough tough problem, even framing it in a way that grabs the audience, I know.

      And really is blogosphere is really a target audience in need of such awareness? May be, may be not. But I think, despite what some bloggers think and act in that way, everything useful happens in the off-line world. So if we want change to happen, then it has to be in the real-world, with real-world actions. Online can be used to disseminate the information, I agree. Online conversations are like the talk of the people who discover a woman whose leg has been chopped off, and who go on to first agree on a larger point that it is all bad, then bicker about the finer points such as could this woman have been running away stealing something, and then finally agreeing among themselves that no matter what she did, such a brutal act of violence against her is not good and generally nod vigorously about the immorality of it all, while forgetting that somebody needs to take this woman to the hospital. And when I say this folks get defensive and say: “Well, ideas matter too…!” Geez…

      Regards,
      Crazyfinger

    8. anindita: Yes, of course the media needs watchdogs. I guess my own assumption is always that the media is crap, so I tend to be surprised when they get things right, rather than the other way around.

      Agree with the starting with basics thing – I figured that was what you were doing, I just want to make sure it’s not going to stay at this level. And yes, finding more and different voices is definitely the way to go.

      To be honest, I did consider volunteering when you guys first set this up, but you have a criteria that requires writers to be Indian residents, which I’m not; plus I’m fragmented across enough blogs as it is. I suppose I could do the whole ‘guest contributor’ thing. Let’s see.

    9. @Apurva
      Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂

      @Falstaff
      Do think about it.

      @CF
      And your point is? Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you see / hear of enough individual experiences around you. I don’t think I need to prove that violence against women exists with individual gory stories. And frankly I’m a little tired of the “new” argument. I’m not writing a novel here. I’m reminding people of things that exist and yes, things that they already know of. If you find it beneath your intellectual level, don’t read.

      You also seem confused. On the one hand you point out to me that I shouldn’t “look up to editors and senior journalists” and then go on to tell me that nobody useful reads blogs anyway. Also, fyi, many of the people writing for this blog (including me) are involved with development organisations in different ways, either running them, working for them, or writing for them. So we’re hardly sitting around in the vain hope that a couple of bloggers are going to change the world. This is just our effort to bring some of those realities into this space.

      ***
      On a more general note, I do have to say this now in response to a couple of the comments above. Gender violence is not a mystery. It’s not something people don’t know about. If it doesn’t move you enough to do something (at a personal level, if nothing else), I don’t think creative messaging is going to do it. I know we’re driven by a clever advertising kind of world but come on. If you need the equivalent of crying, malnutritioned babies to think about the issue, then your involvement is likely to be shallow and worthless anyway.

      Days like this exist more as reminders. Everyone knows AIDS is a big problem. World AIDS Day is an occasion to remind people of it and remind ourselves to step up efforts. This is similar. Especially for development professionals who get jaded working in the same field day after day, these reminders that it is not over and that it must go on, are important. Other people do very little in any case. So if they read this and maybe remember it the next time someone comes up with ridiculous tirades about how women misuse the law and men need to be saved, I’ll be happy.

      This is not to say that we shouldn’t do PR for causes with newspapers. We should. When you’re sitting in an office battling deadlines, it’s easy to miss things that are not shoved under your nose. At the same time, I must point out — and this is something a lot of women journalists have told me — that there is definite resistance to covering women’s rights stuff in many newspapers. I see this is a big issue and a hurdle — that our media does not really support sexual equality. In a country where the media sways opinion hugely (remember’ Jessica Lall?) not having them on our side is detrimental. And ignoring this problem is foolish and dangerous. Which is why I talk about it often.

      Another thing — on writing about “controversial” or new things. Yes, there are enough things that happen around us that may qualify. But the sheer numbers of people facing these old, boring problems are probably greater. So when it comes to making a decision on what deserves attention, it’s a no-brainer. The answers remain the same — awareness, sensitisation, legal recourse, psychological help and so on. Do I have fantastic, breakthrough solutions that nobody else has thought of — even people working in the field for years? No. Should I dress up an old wolf in new clothes to make myself look clever? I don’t think so.

    10. My observation is that many articles focussing on a few specifics related to gender violence seem to receive better media attention than restating generic needs. For instance having a series of articles highlighing different aspects of the issue and then tying it to the 16 days might get more eyeballs.

      1.Television serials and Cinema showing portrayals of wives being beaten. In the US and several other countries this is something that would not be shown in public television.I see a lot ot Indian movies,tele-serials show a man slapping a woman as a routine scene which no one seems to question.
      2.Get more vernacular press involved – A lot of vulnerable communities facing dv need to know about this.

      I am sure a lot of organizations have been involved in this and doing this. But I have seen a lot of good gender-related issues being highlighted in The Hindu (Kalpana Chawla’s articles) so I would’nt .May bethe perception of the event as a non-event could be changed by focussing on specifics?

    11. Errata: That should be Kalpana Sharma not Kalpana Chawla.

    12. Apurva: It’s not about sensationalism, it’s about clarity. Anyone who needs six bullet points to say something isn’t doing a good job of saying it, and probably isn’t clear enough about what they’re trying to do.

      “It is interesting how you put the onus of getting something reported on those who are the subject of the report and not on the media”

      As I’ve said countless times before, I’m not interested in playing blame games. I’m interested in what will work. Blame the media all you like (I do myself) – that doesn’t change anything. I’m not laying “the onus” on anyone, I’m suggesting that we spend our time thinking about how the people who are interested in seeing greater awareness go about achieving that task, since they, being the ones to benefit, are more likely to change their behavior.

      And I’m not bored by gender issues – on the contrary. That’s why I’d like to see the movement for gender rights handled as effectively as it can be. As for you finding what I say “disgusting and disrespectful” – tough. Anindita asked me for an opinion so I provided one. It doesn’t sound like she’s offended, so why are you?

      Anindita: See, this is why I’m always reluctant to blog about feminism. Offer the slightest criticism of the way feminists are approaching things and you instantly get some half-wit accusing you of malicious intent or ‘not caring’. I so don’t need that. But I will think about it anyway.

      In the meantime, to your last point above, it’s not about dressing old wolves in new clothes (aarggh! mixed metaphor alert!) it’s about figuring out who you want to communicate with, what they know / don’t know and therefore most need to hear, and making that available to them as clearly as possible. Too much of the communication in development seems to be crafted on the basis of what the organization wants to say rather than what their audience wants to know (the CWGL website is a good example).

      Also, being controversial is not about finding ‘new things’ to write about, it’s about trying to look at the ‘old things’ in new ways to see if we can find better solutions to them. The search for new / different solutions begins with fresh perspectives. No one has solutions “no one else has thought of”. But if we do nothing more than repeat what we already know (or think we know) we’re never going to think of any new solutions either.

      Again, that’s not meant as a criticism. It’s simply to make the quasi-philosophical point that we need a balance between reiterating the basics and examining the new.

    13. […] Noise for Gender Violence 28Nov07 Anindita Sengupta blogging at Ultra Violet wonders whether violence against women has gotten so acceptable that it “ceases to even […]

    14. @falstaff:
      clarity? what does the number of points (and six that too) have to do with clarity?
      It is media responsibility that is important. What seems to work to get the media talking is not always what is the best approach. Besides, all media is not bad. But when it comes to reporting issues regarding women, they all seem to suck big time. Violence against women is not a unknown issue that you need to publicise with PR strategies. It is what a decent media would give attention to. When the issue is a really big problem in this society and is quite well accepted that it affects a lot of women, the onus is on the media to report responsibly (and please no more of your _speculative_ questions on how the increase could just be an increase in reporting which actually begs other spculative questions as to why it got higher and whether it is because the feminists are doing things right).
      Besides I have yet to see you come up with some strategies other than making ridiculous remarks about the number of bullet points and a supposedly badly designed website being responsible for the media apathy on the issue.

      And dude, decide whether you are criticising or not criticising. Don’t be so quasi.

      frankly I do not care what _you_ think “the feminists” should be doing and how they go about doing it. The day the feminist movement becomes a centralised machine with a cotorie of strategists and a team of PR experts backed by psychologists would be the day it loses meaning.

      Gah! why do I always write these when I am half asleep..

    15. falstaff: The problem with finding ‘better solutions’ is that sometimes, there aren’t any better solutions, or at least not ones which are feasible. While there maybe a few gender activists who don’t really do very much, most of them are people (women AND men), who do work very hard at trying to improve the situation by looking at as many ‘solutions’ as possible.

      However, the problem in a country like India is largely to do with how women are viewed; it is still believed that women are ‘owned’ by men or are just available for sex and to look after the home and kids. Girls are useless and it’s better to kill them off. And it’s not just poor farmers in Bihar – read some comments to the sexual harassment posts on this site.

      It’s these kinds of attitudes that we should try to change. And the basic method of change is information dissemination. The media (and blogs) should try to make people aware that their attitudes are just plain wrong. The more people write about it, talk about it, read about it and watch it on tv, the better the situation will get.

      What’s wrong with doing the basics? It’s as important as trying something new.

    16. Aditya: Agree with all that. There’s nothing wrong with trying to create awareness – on the contrary, I’m all for it. All I’m saying is that if you want to change attitudes you need to have a clear, distinctive message that people who aren’t already brought into your cause can relate to / think about. And there are more effective ways of doing that than putting up a six bullet point list that no one’s going to remember (quick! without looking at the list above – how many of their six points can you recall?), let alone engage with. If the CGWL folks really want to create awareness they should have a site that:

      a) Puts key facts about the extent and nature of the problem on the home page, or one click away from it.

      b) Provide clear direction on how individuals / NGOs can participate in their campaign

      c) Explain what their campaign is actually doing, if anything, rather than what it, in abstract, wants to do (how is local work around violence against women – point 2 of the laundry list – to be strengthened? I’m sure that information is in there, somewhere four clicks away – but it should be front and center)

      They also need to have goals that measurable and time-bound. How can we tell if the campaign succeeds? Is the fact that we’re trying to do something about the problem enough? Maybe, for some people. Personally, I care about results, not intentions. And it saddens me to see so much genuine energy being channeled into an effort that, because it’s ill-conceived, will have little or no effect.

      Finally, they also need to have a clear top-line message (ideally one / two sentences) that summarizes what they’re trying to do – more specific than ‘we’re trying to stop violence against women’ and shorter than six lazy bullet points.

      All of this is communication / management 101. So if an organization doesn’t even get that right then it’s hard to believe that they’ve looked at ‘as many solutions as possible’.

      As for “what’s wrong with doing the basics?”. Who said there was anything wrong with it? I certainly never did. All I’m saying is that if a movement is to grow and develop it needs debate, needs innovation, needs fresh perspective. Otherwise it stagnates. So we need to balance the ‘basics’ with ‘new thinking’ – it shouldn’t be just one or the other. Why is that so hard to understand?

    17. And this is why we get overwhelmed by the basics: http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/nov/28women.htm

      Read the comments, especially the ones on the second page. This is what common perceptions in our country are like. As soon as you try to point out facts to people, they jump up and claim you are dissing the country. Immense fatigue comes.

    18. Thanks for the link, Apurva. Have used it in Hot Links. I have to admit though that I find this ironic, especially because Buck keeps saying things like “the big boys” and his “man-to-man” and makes the feminist movement upto now sound like the weak, namby-pamby kinda thing that “only women are capable of.”

    19. @Anindita: I am not sure if you missed it – The Onion is a satirical news site. Read their other stories.
      I hope you do realise why I posted it here.

    20. […] UltraViolet – a fantastic community of Indian feminists, who don’t write as much as I wish they would. I […]

    21. […] Ultra Violet links to a report which considers why there is a 300% rise in violence against women in Kerala, India, a state which also has the highest literacy levels in the country. So here, factors like education and international exposure are debilitating rather than liberating in any way. This is something that’s been bothering me for a while, ever since Gita Aravamudan, author of Disappearing Daughters, pointed out that female foeticide is also more prevalent in richer, better-educated homes. I grew up on a staple diet of cliches regarding the world and social change and one of them had to do with education being the panacea for all ills. When will men stop beating up women? When will people not fight on religious grounds? When will caste be abolished? When everybody is educated. Were others also similarly reassured or was I the only one conned in this manner? […]

    22. Not sure if this post still has any attention, but just read this over at the Harvard Magazine and wanted to share the link.

      Regards, Crazyfinger

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