Women's rights in India remain in the dark

Women's rights in India remain in the dark

Can you walk home alone at night without worrying about your safety?’, ‘When you get married, are you not expected to take your spouse’s name?’, ‘Have you ever experienced any form of physical, sexual or mental violence?’ or ‘Can you wear anything you choose without the fear of harassment?’ These might seem to be general questions on which little thought is given. But when eight individuals were put under the spotlight to answer such questions – where the spotlight turned brighter for every ‘yes’ reflecting their right to freedom, and dimmer for every ‘no’ - the results showed men in light and women in darkness.

Titled ‘Are You in the Spotlight’, this quiz is an attempt by Oxfam India, that works towards empowering the vulnerable and underprivileged, to raise awareness on the prevalent attitudes of our society that leads to violence against women.

“There are many things in our daily lives, which we never question. Men and women in our society take them for granted or are forced to make peace with it. There are many people who question the need for gender equality or feminism as it threatens the so called ‘balance’ in families and the larger society. And that’s the core idea of this video: ‘to make people realise and acknowledge, that while we think we are ‘doing a lot’ for gender equality, there’s still a huge gap, which needs to be acknowledged and addressed,” Julie Thekkudan, lead specialist - gender justice, Oxfam India tells Metrolife.

Common people from different Indian geographies, background and age groups were selected to take the quiz. These included a 21-year-old college student from the northeast, an 18-year-old school boy from Pune, a 37-year-old, middle aged woman from Lucknow, a 24-year-old girl from a minority community in Delhi, a 26-year-old professional man from Jaipur, a 33-year-old man from a non-urban background in Haryana, a 28-year-old man from Tamil Nadu, and a 27-year-old professional woman from West Bengal.

After taking the quiz, while Avdeep from Jaipur says, he never thought of taking his spouse’s name “because that’s how it has always been”; Vikas from Sonepat says, “We have been living in such a society since childhood. In our villages, only men take decisions”.

The quiz is a build-up to the 16 days of activism campaign, where they will be organising activities to trigger questions around gender norms, to make people start questioning what they take for granted.

“During this campaign - which is a global gender campaign that takes place every year from November 25 (Ending Violence Against Women Day) till December 10 (Human Rights Day) - we plan on engaging with educational institutions and other public institutions to get a sense of what the public thinks about equality and women’s rights,” says Thekkudan.

She further states that attitudes and behaviour need to shift and the campaign attempts to test the appetite of the citizens to be agents of change. “Is there an openness to discuss? Is there an acknowledgment that we have a problem in varying degrees in each our homes? Is there resistance? What is the fear to change even after acknowledging the problem for both men and women? We shall then explore the ways in which we can engage for real transformation in theses social norms,” she says.

On being asked if the findings would be taken to the government, Thekkudan says this is more about social practices and attitudes, where people need to acknowledge the gap.

“Along with the government, it's the people, who need to be an active part of this change. This is the first step in addressing the issue. This campaign is specifically targeted at people to change the norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls,” she says.

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