By Samantha Osaki
It’s been a while since I’ve had access to wifi, but the following blog post is about an event which took place in February.
February 14, 2013. As I walked through Connaught Place to join ranks with the men and women gathered in solidarity at One Billion Rising, a world-wide campaign to stop violence against women, I was handed a pamphlet that read, “Say NO to Government’s Eyewash Ordinance… Parliament Must Implement Justice Verma’s Recommendations.” The woman standing before me was a passionate advocate of the Freedom Without Fear movement, a campaign against sexual violence and gender discrimination that sprang up in the aftermath of the December 17th gang rape in order to keep alive the flame which that atrocious event kindled in its immediate aftermath.
“It’s too often the case that movements lose their momentum, that they start to fade away,” she said firmly,” but to allow that to happen is to do a disservice to victims of sexual assault all over the world. We are taking a stand now – we will not let our daughters live in fear.”
The feeling amidst the charged crowd epitomized this sentiment. Acting and dancing performances were staged by young women from all over Delhi and its surrounding regions, and political activists stepped into the limelight to boldly proclaim that they would wait no longer for the oppression of women to end. At one point, the entire crowd joined together as one voice chanting the Hindi word for freedom, “aazadi.”
As I left the crowds at the end of the day, I came across two men sitting peacefully in a courtyard a block away from the protests. Behind them was a great banner with bold red letters and scattered before their feet were a series of posters with candles arranged around them for a dramatically illuminating effect. When I asked the first man, Anurag Singh, what all of it meant, he exclaimed that he was on a hunger strike that would not end until stronger ordinances preventing rape were put in place as law. He had been there for 90 days, taking only liquids into his body for sustenance, but his health and family obligations were now calling him home. Next to him sat a friend, Kaushal Sathi, who had agreed to take on the next shift in the hunger strike indefinitely. Each man expressed his determination to keep going for as long as it might take to turn one of the most brutal cases of rape ever recorded into the event which sparks a substantial shift in the way governments look at the safety and security of women around the globe.
April 17, 2013. LOOKING BACK:
According One Billion Rising, “4 February 2013 marked the largest global action in history to end violence against women and girls… mobiliz[ing] over a billion people worldwide, [and] inspiring women and men in 207 countries to come together and express their outrage, and to strike, dance and RISE against violence. One Billion Rising will continue to grow and expand, not to become an annual holiday, but to catalyze the energy that has been activated on 14 February 2013.”
The following are photos I took of the posters that were hung as decorations and were being sold to raise money for the campaign: