“Man thrashes wife to death”, “Husband arrested for beating up his wife”, “Wife accuses husband of assaulting her”. It won’t be surprising if a claim is made that along with morning tea, such newspapers headlines have also become a part of one’s routine. Isn’t it shameful to see women becoming prey to the brutality and violence inflicted by her own family members and acquaintances, that too in a country where Goddesses are worshipped in the form of Lakshmi and Kali?
Few years back, when I was in the seventh grade, I used to hear our house-maid talking to my mother about her husband hitting her on a daily basis. I used to cry from within, seeing a fresh wound or bruise on her body almost everyday. But what could have I done to help her? I was only 12 years old then. My mother offered to file an FIR against her drunkard husband, but she told her not to do so. After a few months, she left for her village and I never saw her again. But those wounds kept haunting me for a long time, and I still wonder; what could I do help a woman in such a situation?
As an initiative to put an end to domestic violence, the ‘Bell Bajao Campaign’ is launched by Breakthrough, an international human rights organization in collaboration with The Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNIFEM and the UN Trust Fund. The campaign is designed by the leading advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, with the eminent actor Boman Irani as its Brand Ambassador. The aim is to encourage individuals to stand up against the domestic violence by killing the ‘It’s not my business’ mentality, and getting involved in the issue.
So far, two impressive campaigns named ‘Doodh’ and ‘Cricket’ have been launched. They have a common beginning, where males are involved in their daily activities (the former shows a middle-aged man reading a newspaper, while in the latter a group of teenage boys playing cricket has been shown), while they hear a neighbour beating his wife. They immediately react to it by ringing the doorbell. The angry husband opens the door, and the domestic violence is interrupted by the man/boys who ask him for milk/ball. The ad ends with a message, which says ‘Bring Domestic Violence to a Halt. Ring the Bell’. The idea is to implicate men in supporting the cause, since it is always the man who is seen as the culprit in this offense.
The campaign will be spread across the country through Doordarshan and other TV channels, radio, print and the Internet. In addition, the Bell Bajao van is reaching out to people in cities like Lucknow, and the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra by organizing street plays and films, to make them aware of the need to stop domestic violence. The online version ‘www.bellbajao.org’ is targeted at the youth and through its remarkable content ignites them to take a stand against the physical abuse. Its outstanding features include interactive games such as hangman, contests, quiz and blogs that convey the message while keeping the visitor involved in them. The Viewspaper is an active partner of the online campaign and has played a major role in supporting it.
Domestic violence is the biggest social challenge being faced by the country today. It includes not only physical assault, but also restriction of movement, economic degradation, and sexual, emotional and verbal abuse. Irrespective of the family’s social and economic status, women from every part of the country are being affected by this menace. Other than causing physical injuries and deformity, it leads to life-long emotional distress and depressive disorders in the victim. Children of wife-beaters who get accustomed to seeing such violence probably do the same to their spouses when they grow up.
According to the United Nations report, one in five women in India is a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, one in three would have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by a family member or an acquaintance. A survey conducted in U.P, Maharashtra and Karnataka on domestic violence reveals that 80% people believe that it is not their business to interfere in someone else’s household matter, and if at all, only family members have the right to do so. The Government of India passed a legislation called ‘The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005’, which provides relief to millions of women affected by violence in their homes. Bell-Bajao campaign will be beneficial in enforcing the implementation of this law, by conveying to masses a message that is simple yet powerful; violence behind closed doors can be tackled simply by ringing a bell!
[Image Source] http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/2216888470/