Mobilising men for feminine cause

Last Updated 13 March 2013, 14:02 IST

Almost five years back, a commercial showed Boman Irani getting distracted from cleaning his bike as he hears cries from a neighbour’s home. He rings the bell of that house and as the husband (who was beating his wife) opens the door, Boman asks him if he can make a phone call. Just then, Boman’s cellphone rings, making the viewer realise that his intent was only to intervene – to stop domestic violence. In the end, a male voice says: ‘Bring domestic violence to a halt. Ring the bell.’

This ad had a huge impact on the viewers’ psyche and Bell Bajao campaign initiated by Breakthrough – an NGO, came to the fore. Accepted earlier in countries like China, Pakistan and Vietnam, five years down, the campaign has gone global, and was launched as ‘One million men, One million promises’, in Brazil and South Africa on International Women’s Day.

Before the event, Amitabh Bachchan tweeted extending his support to it. On the D-Day, a day-long programme at British Council invited actors Rahul Bose and Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal to discuss the crucial role of men in putting a stop to violence against women. Finally, cultural performances by Swarathma band and sitarist Anoushka Shankar completed the evening.

Rahul Bose later shared with Metrolife that though a lot is being done to raise awareness about violence against women, it just isn’t enough. “Every woman has an ecosystem of men around her - a hurt father, an angry brother, a damaged husband. I suggest, men who are relatives of a rape survivor or violence survivor be approached. They are the greatest gender warriors and can be instrumental in getting justice for all women.” 

Theatre personality Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, famous for her play Vagina Monologues, seconds Rahul. “Men who respect their wives should show their anger. It is considered uncivil for a man in our society to be angry but they must come out and speak if they see injustice done to a woman.”

What about the fact that even after a number of campaigns, events and other activities, the effect is not percolating down to every strata of society? Mahabanoo believes that the need arises in the absence of any noticeable action by the Government.

Whereas Rahul opines that, “December 16 was an inflection point in our democracy and for the first time all NGOs came together because they understood that this is a moment they cannot afford to lose. There are many different Indias and percolation doesn’t happen in India.”

Sonali Khan, vice-president of breakthrough shares, “Changing behaviour is the most difficult task. I once met a group of young men outside Mangalore who used to tease girls. When we asked them the reason for their actions, they said they did it for fun but when they realised that their actions resulted in girls being pulled back from social outings, they stopped indulging in such activities. Today, they educate other young men about the same.” So the change in reality, ‘Starts with you’!

(Published 13 March 2013, 14:02 IST)

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