Though it seems there are a few who believe the global One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign undermines the work of grassroot level organisation working on GBV (such as what this article expressed- Natalie Gyte). Or that it’s a campaign on a treadmill, like this comment on the Daily FT:
In response to Natalie Gyte and Arvind, expecting a policy change to spring from OBR is non-sequitur; at least I don’t expect anything of the sort to manifest here in Sri Lanka. OBR was more a collective global voice. It was one billion people across the world showing their antipathy towards all forms of violence against women. And unlike most boring or angry demonstrations, OBR had a twist. It had a more carnival atmosphere, it caught hold of public attention not by nettling them, but by being colourful; and even funny.
Funny like this-
So what good was OBR?
Here are my reasons:
1. And this is more of a response to Arvind’s comment about OBR being nongermane to Colombo. While Colombo may be more forward-thinking than rural areas of Sri Lanka, it does not mean that Colombo is free of rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment. In fact, I’ve interviewed domestic violence victims of the more elite areas of Colombo for an article.
The walls of their sprawling and grander homes don’t necessarily make it safe for women who live with a temperamental and abusive husband. Date rape, gang rape and incest, all happen in Colombo too. And sexual harassment is rampant here. Just walk around Colombo in jeans and t-shirt, and you’ll get an earful of luridly sexual comments, such as ‘nice pussy’ (that’s one I received while walking down Bullers Road, wearing jeans that were actually too big in size and a shirt!). And you’d be lucky if you aren’t groped. So, yes, OBR Colombo is a pertinent campaign– and it was trilingual.
2. Okay, so we stood around Lipton Circus for a few hours, what impact will it have on the public? Well, did you know that UNICEF revealed that an alarming number of young Sri Lankan women believe that domestic violence is acceptable? It’s alright for a husband to beat his wife around bit; it’s inherent in men and we have to accept that– is what these young women seem to think. Now this is something that’s imbibed in society and a campaign such as OBR can be an eye-opener for these women. It also teaches men that it is not normal or acceptable for them to treat women in such a way. Maybe they won’t stop, but at least it will ring in their conscience and they will know it’s wrong.
3. The people who participated will feel more empowered to speak out about it. Not all the people who participated were activists. Some of the people were regular office workers who believe that GBV is not acceptable, but they have not done anything about it before. And it creates some awareness in the media reports too.
Even Feminist have different opinions on discrimination
In response to Gyte’s views that some of the ‘reasons to rise’ were counter-productive, such as Stella Creasy speaking about One Billion rising and its inclusion of men in the campaign, and stating ‘violence is not a gender issue; this affects our societies as a whole’. I understand Creasy’s statement to mean that GBV is a universal problem; it affects men too.
But even if you disagree with Creasy, it’s important to understand that when it comes to one billion people across the world, there will be different takes on GBV that different people will stand for. For example there are different types of feminists in the world. There are those who believe that women should be free to walk around topless, just as men do. And there are some feminists who would disagree with that. I personally don’t believe that legalising prostitution will help sex workers,but there are feminists who believe that it will. And they and I were present at OBR Colombo. With the sheer number of people who participated, all sharing their own views, you can’t narrow it down. Not to mention, even on a grassroot level each will advocate either own opinions.
Even if it won’t pack as much punch as a grassroot level campaign, I believe OBR could do more good than harm.
I’ve posted a few more photographs I took of the Colombo campaign below. If you click on the images a nice slide show will blow up and you will be able to read the placards better.