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How A Football Video Game Is Fighting Gender-Based Violence (Score!)

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By Saswati Chatterjee:

featured_image_-_breakawayGender-based violence is a pretty big thing out in the world. As many as 38% of women are murdered are killed by their partners and recently, a video released on Saudi Arabia’s national TV showed men how to ‘properly beat their wives‘. These are not isolated incidents but facts of everyday life for many women around the globe. And the folks at Emergent Media center might just have come up with an interesting way to combat this.

This involves the release of their game Breakaway which forces both men and women to consider the many negative aspects of gender-based violence. Breakaway uses the medium of virtual soccer gameplay to ease players into its world and tactics, before slowly introducing the issues it wants to discuss. It’s a pretty interesting way to go about it since it does not thrust the message in the user’s face (leading to many rejecting it) but gradually introduces them to the topic in the most feasible way possible: how would they react if they were in that situation or saw it happening?

Players are often introduced to situations like a girl being bullied and locked into her locker for ages in an effort to build empathy and to break down the barrier between the sexes and it appears to be working, with more players going for a positive outcome in the game.  It is done so on a simplistic platform to avoid needing the best gaming monitors to run it, almost everyone with access to technology will have access to this.

The idea is to break down what exactly is acceptable behaviour towards women and girls, both in the virtual world and outside it. As someone who plays a lot of video games, there is certainly an atmosphere which encourages the kind of cut throat competition which can easily twist into gender-based violence. From ‘make me a sandwich’ jokes to rape threats, gender-based violence (both virtual and real) become a way of being more aggressive, more ‘top of the game’ in a way. Such violence doesn’t restrict itself to directly attacking, it’s also responsible for creating a silence around itself, where it becomes accepted and people refuse to engage with it. In fact, it goes so far as becoming the norm and calling it out makes ‘you’ the outsider.

This is why we often have situations like people demanding to know where the women are in gaming, in sports or any other aggressively male-dominated activity. The point is that they are there; they always have been, only they are silent. There is a particularly egregious example of this in video games where many women (myself included) do not turn on their microphones while playing online, except when they’re playing with people they know. The addition of a female voice is often an invitation for other (male) players to harass her, usually with gendered insults. This leads to a situation where the players automatically assume that they are playing against other men, when they could just as easily be playing against a woman who is just silent.

Video games are just one example, but the real world is full of them. Women don’t even have to be on the field to have violence directed towards them. Athletes have a terrible track record regarding violence with their partners. And those female athletes who do speak up about their experiences are often harassed for it, especially online. It’s almost like a double violation. That is why games like Breakaway are important, because they create that sense of empathy where there is none. With certain areas seen as ‘boys’ only, it becomes easy for men to see women as the ‘outsider’ and attack them accordingly, without taking the woman’s side into account. With Breakaway, that wall is broken down and that possibly explains the increasingly positive responses it is receiving.

In a world where women can face violence for as little as stepping out of their homes, it is important that we educate both sides about the problem. All that violence does is shut down one side, but the problem persists. Possibly with this greater understanding, we can hope for a world where such violence, if it’s not a thing of the past, will at least cease to affect women so deeply.

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  1. B

    1. From 2005 to 2008, as many as 22,000 men have ended their lives in reverse dowry harassment after allegedly being tormented by their wives. In contrast, dowry harassment has driven 6,800 women to suicide.

    3 times as many men are victims of dowry, but the media only highlights women’s issues for TRPs, and that does not even tell us the number of false cases under 498A, where 98% of cases by women have been found to be false, and tens of thousands if innocent men are rotting behind bars.

    2. A man is physically abused by his wife/girlfriend every 14.6 seconds. Google it.

    3. 98% of all cases of rape, DV, dowry are found to be false. Women love playing victims, while innocent men continue to rot behind bars for crimes they have not committed.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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