| At the interactive workshop with schoolteachers in Tangra. Picture by Aranya Sen
“Why do you focus only on violence faced by women' So many men are victimised at home nowadays.” That is the question posed, not once, but repeatedly during discussions about violence within the home. In an audience largely dominated by women, one or two men invariably stand up to fight the cause of the henpecked husbands.
The questions that arise in response are obvious: Where are the statistics to back up such a claim' Where are the deaths when a male child is born' How many dowry-related deaths have males as victims' The lack of answers leaves the men stumped.
“We do not want this to become a battleground between man and woman,” stressed activist Anuradha Kapoor. As part of the fortnight-long ‘protest against violence against women’, Swayam had been invited by Chip, an NGO, to hold a workshop with schoolteachers in Tangra. So on Wednesday, after a screening of Bol, (public-service spots highlighting domestic violence faced by women), an interactive session saw a number of interesting views emerging.
The facts, as presented in the films based on a study conducted by the International Center for Research on Women between 1997 and 2000, reveal that nearly 40 per cent of the women surveyed (between the ages of 18 and 54), suffer physical violence at least once in their lives. An additional 43 per cent were victims of psychological violence at least once, while one in every four middle-class Indian women is abused.
Directed by documentary-maker Shabnam Virmani and produced by Drishti Media Collective, Ahmedabad, the films have been translated into Bengali by Swayam. The 60-second spots that have been aired on national TV are now being used at various fora through the fortnight.
Chip, or Child in Pain, works with children facing physical and psychological “pain” or trauma and runs a number of projects in Tangra schools. “We invited Swayam to organise this workshop because we found that many of the children here came from dysfunctional families… Sensitising the teachers may result in some things filtering down to the parents,” explains Sushmita Chatterjee of Chip.
The point of the seminar — for men and women alike — was not lost on most. Local councillor Lakhi Muni Banerjee attended part of the session, speaking about cases of violence that have been reported in the ward, and the need to develop awareness on the issue. Kapoor also spoke of men and women working together to overcome “socialised constructs”.
But the likes of Gaur Saha did not need to hear this anew. “You talk about putting an end to violence against women by approaching the government for more stringent legislation. I can tell you now, that won’t work,” said the humble primary schoolteacher. “There are forces within the system that work against women… Like the portrayal of women on television… They are treated like property,” concluded the elderly gentleman, to a warm round of applause.