From times immemorial, women have been subjected to varying degrees of violence, subjugation, and oppression all around the world. Patriarchy is one evil that has deep roots in human history and continues to manifest itself in diverse forms within our society. The UN reveals in its rather shocking report that 1 out of every 3 women is beaten up or raped in her lifetime. Such a daunting reality galvanized Eve Ensler, an eminent feminist writer best known for her work “Vagina Monologues”, to start a campaign that would make people come together from all corners of the world to stand up in solidarity against the brutalities a woman faces in the society because of her gender. She named it ‘One Billion Rising‘.
Initiated in 2012, the campaign was scheduled to be held every year on 14th February. Needless to say, it spread across the globe like wild fire. People from around 200 countries came out on the streets to express outrage at every form of violence that is meted out to women. They danced in a symbolic expression of breaking the shackles binding them. Eve has been quoted saying, “dancing, as the women of Congo taught me, is a most formidable, liberating and transformative energy”. Through such a powerful medium of expression, they blatantly challenged the regressive norms of the society, and celebrated love, equality, and justice.
The campaign didn’t intend to be branded under the name of its founder; instead it essentially rose to become “a global action to be determined and carried locally”. People from different countries stood up for a cause they felt plagued them the most; be it education for girls, ending Female Genital Mutilation, or a persistent increase in the number of rape and sexual harassment cases. People from Somalia, Sudan, Tehran, Hong Kong, Philippines, and many other countries denounced the societal diktats which prevented them from leading a purposeful life the way they want to. The campaign provided a platform for women to hold hands and express solidarity, however, most importantly, it promoted harmony towards a more cohesive vision of a just and equal world for themselves and their children.
In India, the campaign was embraced with open arms. It saw participation from all across the country, such as New Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Himachal Pradesh, Madurai, Kerala, Siliguri etc, addressing issues like safety, justice, security, involvement of men in promoting women’s rights, and emancipation of women from derogatory gender roles as well as critiquing the role of moral policing in maintaining and securing the patriarchal structure of society. Each area had its own plan of action for contributing to the campaign; poster making competitions, massive flash mobs, auto-rickshaw and female driver rallies are some of the many ways in which people showed their support for the cause. The year 2014 witnessed people demanding an end to this injustice, invigorating survivors to break their silence.
In a country where a woman is undesirable in her foetal stage, perceived to be a burden on the father and a mere property meant to be passed on to the husband, the entire responsibility of the family’s honour laid on her shoulders, tortured to bow to the wishes of her husband’s family, exploited as a baby making machine with no aspirations of her own, the relevance and the necessity of the One Billion Rising Campaign makes all the more sense.
But has there been no shift in the condemnable situation of women in India? Kamla Bhasin thinks otherwise. “Whether it is in the form of women stand-up comedians, or the girl who took on Honey Singh, or the woman who raised an alarm against the man who molested her in an airplane, there is a change; you can feel it in the air.” she has been quoted in the India Gazette. “Today, more than ever, we know that the time has come to sing a requiem to patriarchy and bury or cremate it, because it is harming both men and women alike.” she adds. As many people from across the country are vigorously advocating gender equality and reclaiming their rightful position in the society that remains undeterred by the elevating incidences of violence and discrimination, it is of predominant importance that the need of the campaign be understood clearly. As Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, has to say, “The more, the better”. “The need of the hour is of campaigns that do not mince words about the kind of liberation we want for our women. Such campaigns help bring women already resisting in their individual ways together to create a mass resistance, which makes it all the more significant.”
14th February 2015 is a day to watch out for. It is a day where one billion plus people from all across the world would sway to the rhythm of freedom and joy, to liberation from the chains of dominance, loudly reminding the world that they refuse to allow their bodies, sexualities and minds to be ruled over by fundamentalist ideologies. It is a day on which people will be mobilized, engaged and awakened to end violence against women. On this day, they will rise together to celebrate love, and freedom.
Strike, Rise And Dance!