A three month-old website seeks to become the one stop shop for information about violence against women and children
On December 6, city newspapers carried a short report on an Oshiwara-based airhostess who broke off her engagement after her fiance's family began to pester her for dowry. The reports applauded the woman's courage to take a stand against dowry, despite the social opprobrium she would have had to face for
breaking off her engagement.
A print screen of the Stand up Against Violence website
Violence against women takes many forms -- assumptions about what causes them shame is one, and, as a website recently launched by Gender Equality group Akshara Centre reminds us, dowry harassment is another.
Called http://www.standupagainstviolence.org/, the website is an information portal that walks you through various types of violence perpetrated against women, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, eve-teasing, and domestic violence. Trafficking and sex selection too, form part of the list.
Nandita Gandhi at her office. File Pic
Each subject is given a write up, addressing, as the Centre's co-director Nandita Gandhi points out, "the blindspots" that inform people's understanding of the issue.
For instance, the site begins by taking apart common beliefs about dowry, such as for instance, it is a "father's way of helping out a newly wed couple" or that "it is a gift", and then goes on to offer statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau and cases registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act. It then offers a guide on how to use the law, and other sections of the IPC to fight such harassment.
Although the site tackles the question of violence, which needn't be gender or sexuality-specific -- cases of violence against hijras, gays and lesbians, and even abuse of the Domestic Violence Act against men are well-known -- Gandhi is clear that the primary focus of the site to help women, who she feels, are "more vulnerable" than men. "Violence against gay people would require separate laws and addressing that on this website would do justice to neither party," says Gandhi.
In the first month of its launch, the website, which took two years to go live, received 65,404 hits. Since then, it has received over 40,900 hits. "We will take a call on what more to do with the site, depending on how it is accessed and used over the next six to eight months," says Gandhi, who set up Akshara Centre with co-founder Nandita Shah in 1995.
At present, there is already a resource directory of all the NGOs and trusts that work with women in the area of harassment, violence, dowry and trafficking, across most Indian states. While Gandhi admits that not all have been whetted by them, they are hoping that website users will get back to them with constructive feedback.
"We hope to make this site more interactive in the coming months, perhaps by introducing a blog, or a chatroom," she adds. Other initiatives centred on the issue of violence against women include a 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign organised by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership, which began on November 25, and culminated on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.
Several campaigns were held throughout the globe. For instance, in Afghanistan, Radio Bahar, a local radio station, aired a month-long programme that focused on the elimination of violence against women. In India, women and children's voluntary group Swadhina showed films, and held talks and exhibitions on the issue in Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, among other states.
In Mumbai, Men Against Violence and Abuse organised a series of workshops on Gender Sensitisation and Preventing Violence Against Girls/Women in 10 colleges.