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End violence against women and children: activists

Nov 19, 2013

The dream for gender justice cannot be achieved in a caste stratified society, said Asha Kowtal from All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch.

New Delhi: The Indian Women Press Corps in partnership with UNICEF and UN Women, organised a panel discussion to build on the growing public consensus that violence against children and women can no longer be tolerated and that collective action of all stakeholders is required to help end it.

The discussion is a collaborative effort of the organizations to take forward the UN Secretary General’s campaign - UNiTE to End Violence against Women and Girls. As a part of this campaign, UNICEF India launched the initiative ‘Time to Sound the Red Siren’ by placing a special focus on sexual violence against girls.

Leading the panel discussion, Nandita Das, UNICEF celebrity advocate said, “I firmly believe that identifying and addressing the root causes of violence and the social norms that allow it to perpetuate, is a very important step in creating safer, healthier and more productive societies.”

The UNiITE campaign has been built on growing popular outrage that erupted following horrific attacks against children, such as the October 2012 shooting of then 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, the fatal shooting of 26 pupils and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 and gang rapes of girls in India and in South Africa.

Emphasizing the fact that girls are among the most vulnerable in society and face multiple forms of discrimination and violence, Dora Giusti, Child Protection Specialist UNICEF India said, ‘The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child everywhere has the right to be protected from all forms of violence and protecting children, especially adolescent girls is at the heart of these campaigns. Through the red siren campaign, UNICEF has been able to generate a sustainable discourse on this issue, engaging people from diverse walks of life. It has enabled us to make these invisible issues VISIBLE.”

Speaking on the need for safe city spaces, Kalpana Vishwanath, Senior Advisor, jagori said, “It is significant that women’s safety is no longer being seen only as a women’s issue but one that concerns all stakeholders in the city. It is only when everyone considers   it is their own problem that women’s safety will become a reality.”

Stressing on the need for concerted effort to end violence of any kind, Anju D. Pandey, Programme Officer, Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women India, said, “Violence against women is not just a women’s issue but a human rights issue. UN Women joins the Government and people of India in recognizing that we need to take stronger and sustained action together to change the present reality. We hope that the UNiTE campaign will bring attention to much needed solutions to end violence against women.”

Asha Kowtal from All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch said, “The dream for gender justice cannot be achieved in a caste stratified society like ours. Together we need to dismantle institutions that reek of patriarchy and caste to build a better word for all women- from margins to the centre, from the poorest to the most empowered women.”

The panel discussion with eminent experts and members of media reinforced that the growing global momentum to end violence against children and women needs to be channelled into constructive efforts to change the lives of children and women.

Panelists at the session highlighted that increasing awareness is a first step toward modifying attitudes, behaviours and policies towards violence.

Heightened public awareness can lead to increased dialogue, support the transformation of attitudes and reinforce the idea that violence can be prevented by highlighting successful violence prevention efforts and movements at all levels, with a particular focus on national and local initiatives.

The need to take urgent collective action is underlined even by the limited statistics available, which point to the scale and extent of violence. For example, reports of rapes in India have increased by 336% in the last ten years. In 2011, one third of the victims of rape consisted of girls below 18 years of age for a total of 7,112 cases[1]. Many more are the cases of sexual abuse that go unreported as the fear of stigma pushes girls to hide their pain.

The members of the panel along with Nandita Das, actor and UNICEF celebrity advocate included, Mannika Chopra, President, Indian Women Press Corps; Aruna Singh, General Secretary, Indian Women Press Corps, Dora Giusti, UNICEF India; Anju D. Pandey, UN Women India; Kalpana Vishwanath, Jagori and  Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch.

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