Fifteen years ago, even in the outspoken and peppered with abuse language used in US, the word ‘vagina’ was rarely uttered.
One feminist writer, Eve Ensler, changed that forever by writing, and then producing the performance, The Vagina Monologues.
The book has since been translated into dozens of languages and sold over a million copies and the play too has been translated and performed (and banned, including in Chennai) across the world.
Soon after it was first released and embraced by women across the world, Eve became concerned about the widespread violence against women and decided to start a campaign called V Day, to coincide with Valentine’s Day, but pointing at violence.
With violence against women escalating across the world, both in organised form as in rape during wars or during victory, or unorganised as in dowry, rape, foeticide and honour killings, Eve has launched a worldwide campaign – One Billion Rising – to have one billion people from all over the world to stand up against gender violence on February 14, 2013. And to dance against it.
My friend and colleague Kamla Bhasin – feminist, writer, poet, and savant – is coordinating all the activities in South Asia. The activities are plenty, and have started now in the fortnight against violence. The idea is to involve as many people as possible and to have men who feel about this, or who should take a stand, to take it publicly.
Darpana has been working in this field for many years and is set to launch a college-level intervention to highlight and have young people take pledges against violence in the form of overt or covert dowry negotiations, and the connected issue of female foeticides.
We believe that if young people, soon to be of marriageable age, and therefore in the ‘market’, can understand the true repercussions of the issues. They could be prompted to not indulge in it, to say no to the conventional negotiations that happen between families and put such a huge financial strain on the bride’s parents. And further, if they understand the huge harm gender violence is doing to society, they in turn could become change agents, campaigning a wider circle of parents and extended families.
And now this opportunity has appeared in the form of OBR. I want 20,000 Amdavadis to dance the garba and raas together on February 14, to songs specially created to highlight these issues, and to pledge together to fight and report any form of violence against women that they see or encounter, and that they will not indulge in it. Why garba and raas?
This is Gujarat. This is a state that spends nine nights dancing. And the call is to dance against violence. So, what better than garba and raas? This is also a state, which has many villages and communities without girls, a state where hundreds of young girls and girl children are abducted and never found, where women burn because of dowries, where rape and molestation is on the rapid rise.
We all need to come together on this, put aside our differences and commercial interests, our competition and personal interest and join hands to raise a loud and clear voice. We shall find a gathering place.
We will ask artists to write and create the songs for us. And together we will dance – for all the girls not allowed to be born, for our sisters and mothers with acid on their faces, burns on their bodies, and bruises on their souls. It doesn’t matter if you can dance or not. This isn’t about skills. It is about heart, caring and raising a voice against a genocide.
We need two hours of your time on February 14, and a lifelong commitment to fight gender violence. Please join us by getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is a noted danseuse and social activist