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India's Youth Keep Spotlight on Violence Against Women

  • Aru Pande

Demonstrations against women's violence have not quelled in India since the brutal gang-rape of a woman in the capital, New Delhi, nearly two months ago. Throughout India, thousands of young people are taking part in mass dance protests this Valentine's Day as part of a global campaign.

Nearly a hundred strangers from all over the city have come together here with one message: "Wake up New Delhi and rise up against violence,” chant the protesters.

This flash mob is just one of many gathering Thursday in the Indian capital as part of the worldwide “One Billion Rising” movement - highlighting the number of women who are survivors of abuse.

When the call went out over Facebook, 25-year-old fashion designer Shruti Singh knew she had to take part in order to challenge long-held views about women in Indian society.

“If we don’t walk the talk, it’s not going to make any impact, and the patriarchal mindset and the systems that have been in place for thousands of years are not going to change overnight or with one protest," said Singh. "It’s a starting of a revolution, it’s like another struggle for freedom, freedom of women from oppression.”

This year, in particular, the call for action resonates for many in New Delhi. On December 16, a young woman was brutally beaten and gang-raped aboard a bus. She died later of massive internal injuries.

Immediately after the attack, thousands took to the streets demanding greater protection for women. And two months later, young professionals like Sakshi Bhalla - who choreographed this flash mob dance - are trying to keep the issue of violence against women alive in the public mindset.

“We reached a point where everyone realized that this is it, there was no way that they were going to deal with this anymore and the idea of everybody calling Delhi a ‘rape city’ was really not okay, and I think everybody’s rising up now to make sure we turn it into a safe city,” said Bhalla.

And it isn’t just young women who are taking up the cause. Second-year college student Mohammad Danish said the issue of women’s rights and protection should resonate with every man.

“If we talk about women, I also have two kinds of women [in my house], first of all, my sister and my mom and if we think about this kind of rape and all, we also think about our family,” Danish said.

The murder trial of five of the six suspects accused in the gang-rape continues this week in a fast-track court, and many here plan to take their message to parliament.

Lawmakers are set to discuss a new criminal law targeting violence against women. Rights groups say it falls short in addressing the issues of marital rape and police accountability, and focuses too much on punishment and not enough on prevention.

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