The Lutheran World Service India Trust (LWSIT), a member organization of the ACT Alliance, has launched several initiatives to address gender-based violence. That’s why it supported people from 15 communities on India’s east coast to participate at rallies in the streets of Kolkata and Odisha. One of the attendees was Mrs. Bindu Das. Why did she get involved?
The news of the rape and murder of veterinary doctor Priyanka Reddy in Southern India on 27 November 2019 quickly spread around the globe and got a lot of attention in her home country. All four alleged offenders were shot by the police shortly after. This brutal attack took place just two days after the observance of the “16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence” campaign in Kolkata began, during which the Lutheran World Service India Trust (LWSIT) had organized rallies that brought together community-based organizations (CBOs) and self-help groups (SHGs) from 15 communities. This campaign calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. The 133 participants in Kolkata organized rallies to call on people from all walks of life. They used posters and street plays to express their stand and views. Finally, they lit candles for peace to conclude the event. The rallies were attended by Gram Panchyat Sarapanch (head of local self-governance institution at lower level), ward members, school teachers and community leaders in order to raise awareness among the local population. Other rallies in Odisha were attended by several hundred people as well.
Requirements for the future
Why did people from the communities participate? Mrs. Bindu Das, a 38-years old domestic worker from Kolkata, said: “This is the first time I am attending this type of protest rally. It gives me strength and courage to move forward and not tolerate any abuse while going to work every day”. Like the other participants, Mrs. Puja Das wishes that in the future, all women should be treated respectfully, without being subject to torture and abuse. “Police and government should take action against the perpetrators of rape cases. All girl children should get equal opportunities in education and other spheres of life”, stated another participant. Representatives of the community-based organizations called for installation of telephone helplines immediately, to support stopping atrocities against women and girls and giving equal opportunity to everybody irrespective of gender.
Of course, the shocking murder of Priyanka Reddy became a key issue of the campaign. But its overall objective was to generate public awareness and speak out against all forms of discrimination, torture, and violence against women and girls. “For LWSIT, it’s important to ensure gender justice in all our operational areas. We conduct several gender awareness programs and support CBOs and SHGs aiming at minimizing the disparities in this patriarchal society,” says Kishore Kumar Nag, Lutheran World Service India Trust’s (LWSIT) Acting Executive Director. LWSIT is a Christian, ecumenical organization jointly promoted by the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India and the National Council of Churches in India. It is one of the 135 members of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and faith-based organizations working together in 120 countries in the field of advocacy, development and humanitarian work.
According to gender justice policy
Implementing the ACT Alliance Gender Justice Policy is a key priority for all 135 member organizations of the ACT Alliance. The policy holds a zero-tolerance approach to gender-based violence. ACT’s gender justice policy promotes strategies against human rights violations perpetrated on the grounds of people’s gender identity. All people, irrespective of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to enjoy protection provided by international human rights law, including the respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
It happens everywhere
One characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds: this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries.
ACT’s gender justice policy also ensures access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all individuals so that they can make their own informed decisions concerning their sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
“ACT Alliance recognizes that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a continuing global problem that takes place in all countries and contexts,” says Elaine Neuenfeldt, ACT Alliance’s gender program manager. “But we also believe in an end to gender inequality and injustice, closing the gender gap and addressing unequal power relationships for the promotion of human dignity for all. Our 135 members – faith-based organizations like LWSIT and their partners – play a crucial role in addressing the root causes of SGBV and empower local faith actors and religious leaders to be part of the solution”, she concluded.
For further information please contact:
Femia Baldeo, ACT Alliance Interim Regional Representative, mobile phone +63 9174823033, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Stefanie Meier, Communications and Resource Development Officer Asia and the Pacific, mobile phone +66 99 241 11 39, E-mail email@example.com.