‘March for Dignity’ : 5000 SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION KICK START THE DIGNITY MARCH
Mumbai, 20th December 2018: The Dignity March aimed at ending sexual violence against women and children took off today from Somaiya Grounds Sion, Mumbai with an impressive participation of women, children, celebs and volunteers. Initiated and powered by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan along with several like-minded development sector, a sixty-five-day touring national march that started today will see survivors and other stakeholders travel 10,000 KM in 200 districts
Of 24 States/UTs in India, culminating on 22nd February 2019 in Delhi. The kick-off from Mumbai saw the participation of over 5000 survivors and their family members. Several prominent members of the society came forward to show solidarity to the event, including Tisca Chopra, Sudha Chandran, Ms. Laxmi Agarwal (Stop Acid Attacks), Ms. Bhanwari Devi, activist and survivor of gang rape, Ms. Vidya Shah, CEO, EdelGive Foundation, Ms. Svati Bhatkal from Satyamev Jayate, PM Nair, IPS (Retd), Former DGP, NDRF and Jayna Kothari, Center for Law and Policy Research.
The National Dignity March started with a performance of play by the team of Dignity March & Documentary Screening. This was followed by Mr Ashif Shaikh, Convenor, Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan throwing light on the cause of Dignity March and why it was vital to restore the dignity of the survivors. Survivors from various states then took to stage to share their heart wrenching stories of abuse and sexual assault and how they have neither got justice nor empathy/ dignity in society. The highlight of the event was the Dignity March Song – ‘Mujhe Kehna Hai’ sung by Aditya Narayan and Nayantara and composed by Svati Bhatkal of Satyamev Jayate fame.
The aim of the Dignity March is to end the victim shaming of women and children who are survivors of sexual violence and shift the social humiliation on to perpetuators and for other stakeholders to create a healthy, non-judgmental and safe environment to support their voice, to fight on their behalf.
The Dignity March is rooted in a national online survey conducted by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan. The survey, ‘Speak Out!’ was conducted to determine the intensity of sexual violence against women and children and to bring out the voice of the survivors. The survey revealed that an alarming number of people have faced sexual violence, but 95% of the incidents of sexual violence against women and children are not reported, and the ‘victim’ is shamed and is under constant fear of stigmatization by the society. This also reveals that the government data of incidents of sexual violence against women and children is less valid as the survey suggests that 2% of incidents have been reported to the Police.
Speaking on the Dignity March, Ashif Shaikh of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, said “Dignity March is a response to what is happening around us. Legal provisions and law enforcement agency can only provide assistance to victims who report their exploitation but millions are afraid and embarrassed to even report their suffering. It is time to speak up, end victim shaming and shift the blame, by holding society and the state accountable towards punitive action against the perpetrator. Only when Indian society changes it’s behaviour towards victims of sexual violence from shaming them to supporting them, we will be able to end this and provide justice to those who have suffered. We would request each and every citizen of the nation to pledge support to this initiative and stand in solidarity with the survivors.”
Narrating her struggle, Ms. Bhanwari Devi, activist and survivor of gang rape said, “I suffered more through the shaming by people around me than the actual exploitation. I have changed 5-6 villages already because of the shaming. We cannot undo what has been done to us, but we can definitely prevent our sisters/daughters from becoming prey to abuse and sexual assault in future. Also, we urge all our fellow sisters who have faced sexual assault to come out and speak because this fight is for justice and most importantly to restore the dignity that we have lost in the society. Participate and support this Dignity March because we have the right to belong to this society and country as much as anybody else.”
Tisca Chopra, an actress also known for her strong persona and unconditional support for women empowerment said, “I am glad to witness that so many survivors have taken the courage to participate in this Dignity March. Its not easy but its high time we break the shackle and fight against sexual assault on women and children. I support Dignity March and I am here to encourage every woman who have faced assault to speak up because that’s the only way system will change, and perpetrators will be prosecuted. It’s their fight for justice and Dignity.”
In India, rape and sexual violence on women and children remains one of the most critical problem that needs urgent redressal. According to NCRB, reported cases of crime against women increased 83% from 185,312 in 2007 to 338,954 in 2016. As many as 2.5 million crimes against women have been reported in India over the last decade. Rape accounts for about 12% of all crimes against women. In 2016, 106 rapes were reported every day and the same year saw the lowest conviction rate of 18.9% in the last decade of crime against women. Children especially are often subjected to sexual violence because they’re more vulnerable and susceptible than adults and are easily threatened. In India, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes. 1,04,976 cases registered under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (PoCSO), during the year 2014-16 with 36,022 cases alone in 2016; out of that 19765 were rape and 12262 of sexual assault cases. Around 24,000 children and women were victims of human trafficking in 2016, a rise of nearly 25 percent from the previous year.