In December 2012, we all remember the heart breaking and shocking incident that occurred in New Dehli, India involving 23 year old Jyoti Singh Pandey and her male companion who faced brutal attacks while riding a bus home from the movies. Jyoti was brutally raped by 6 men on the bus as her friend was beaten. They were left to die on the side of the road. A few weeks later in an Indonesian hospital, Jyoti died from severe internal injuries from the attack. The story created a worldwide buzz and since then, brought much attention to violence against women not only among women but also men. The fact that men have become part of the uproar and protests regarding violence against women has created a change in the way we respond to rape, physical, and verbal abuse against women and girls. It has become an issue that involves not just women but EVERYONE. Across the world, more and more men are joining women as partner and leaders in changing the culture that socially tolerates views on girls and women as a risk and liability. Women alone cannot change the traditions and norms of a society that has been practicing and emphasizing male dominance. A collective effort between both genders must work together to set equal rights between a man and a woman, despite these traditions.
“Breakthrough’s “Ring the Bell” campaign calls on men and women to take concrete action to make violence against women unacceptable. (It is the global expansion of Bell Bajao, our internationally-lauded, India-based campaign calling on men to challenge domestic violence, of which Johnson & Johnson was a key founding supporter.) At the campaign launch, actor and activist Sir Patrick Stewart said, “Violence against women is the greatest human rights violation of our generation. Each of us must examine — and change — the ways in which our own behavior might contribute to, enable, ignore, or excuse all forms of such violence. I promise to do so, and to invite other men and allies to do the same.” This campaign is a major step toward speaking out and taking action to prevent these violent behaviors, cultural practices, and existing inequalities that continue to put women at risk for their lives.
Already in India, progress is being made. Breakthrough’s “Nation Against Early Marriage” campaign works with fathers in prohibiting unlawful but continuous practice of early marriage. Almost half (47%) of women in India are married by the age of 18. One of the main reasons why early marriage is so common is because early marriages prevent young girls from being at risk of harassment or premarital sex. Changing the cultural norms of a nation is not easy. People have been practicing with these traditions and customs for thousands of years. It will take not only cooperative efforts from men individually and collaboratively but also a lot of time and acceptance to see changes in women’s rights to her mind and body.