People’s search for a life of dignity, free of discrimination and exploitation, is a continuous journey, whether it is a woman’s right to a violence free life, or the need of the weaker and underprivileged sections of the society for recognition of right to equal status. Violence against women is one of the most widespread violations of women’s human rights around the world.
Violence against women is more pronounced in societies where gender discrimination is inherent in its very ethos. Violence impedes women’s fundamental right to life, food, shelter, health, security, political participation among others. This is all the more important in a state like Rajasthan, where the society is of conservative, male dominated and segmented nature, with caste factors playing major roles in social interaction, bounded by age-old traditions.
With this as background, on the 25th of November 2001, the CUTS Centre for Human Development (CUTS-CHD), Chittorgarh, Rajasthan celebrated the International Day for Violence against Women with ‘social awareness generation on issues related to violence against women and children’ as its theme. Since last three years the Centre is organising sammelans (meetings) on this day to highlight and subsequently draw attention of the society towards issues related to the existing gender discrimination and violence against women.
Objective & Framework
The objective of the event, organised as an entry-point activity for the project on “awareness generation on issues related to violence against women and girl children”, was ‘to contemplate on issues related to violence against women and children by community deliberation and participation, particularly for those from weaker and disadvantaged sections of the society, so as to evolve and take forward well-argued viewpoints and grassroots concerns on the measures to control the same in rural Rajasthan to the development community at large’.
This event succeeded previous project launch-meeting, village, block and district-level meetings on formation of loose networks consisting of the project networkers, such as animators (sachetaks) and motivators (preraks) as well as the women members of self-help groups (SHGs) and panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), dais (traditional birth-attendants) and gunis (traditional healers) along with representatives from polity and the government departments such as judiciary, police, administration, health, education, women & children.
On Sunday, the 25th November 2001, a public awareness meeting (sammelan) was organised in the premises of the Centre at Chittorgarh. 650 people (400 women, 150 men and 100 adolescent girls), from different communities and mostly from various rural areas of the Chittorgarh and Bhilwara districts participated in the event.
In his keynote address, Mr. Jay Dayal Sharma, Chittorgarh District and Sessions Judge called upon the people to incorporate perceptional and attitudinal changes for controlling violence against women. He expressed that the reproductive roles of women are being undermined in the prevailing social structure and coupled with the non-monetary valuation of the productive roles of women, the situation has substantially aggravated. He further indicated that cooperation and participation are vital components of gender equity.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Bhagwati Jhala, a leading social activist and member Chittorgarh Zilla Parishad (district-level local self-governance body) mentioned that organised approach should be taken to control violence against women and for this education of girl children, in particular, should be adopted as the major tool.
Mr. Bhawanr Lal Sisodia, prominent lawyer stated that representation of women from the poor, weaker and disadvantaged sections of the society in the polity would bring in social, economic and organisational empowerment of women. Mr. Shyam Lal Sharma, Public Prosecutor of Nimbahera block stressed on the need for local-level solution of problems related to violence against women and solicited the cooperation of community leaders as well as concerted effort of local CBOs (community-based organisations, such as SHGs/PRIs) and voluntary organisations in this direction.
Many women participants admitted to occurrence of different forms of violence such as psychological, verbal and physical (manasa, vacha & karmana) and mentioned that they have begun to recognise violence as a form of transgression of their rights. Some of the men participators expressed concern towards women’s problems and vouched their cooperation for greater community sensitisation. The adolescent girls assembled in the event acknowledged that gender discrimination in education, healthcare, nutrition could be equated to violation of their basic rights. The participants reaffirmed the need for broader stakeholder participation, education of girl children, local-level problem solving and wider networking.
Ms. Shashi Prabha welcomed the participants and Mr. Dhanna Singh Rawat briefed the participants of the project activities, which is being assisted by the India-Canada Cooperation Office (a project of the Canadian International Development Agency). Ms. Ganga Dadhich narrated the life-cycle approach of violence against women. Ms. Chandra Kala Purohit and Ms. Hema Joshi coordinated the proceedings. Mr. Madan Giri Goswami presented vote of thanks. The meeting ended with a cultural programme performed by few adolescent girls and facilitated by the team members of the Centre.