Across the world, one in three women face abuse in their lifetime, and among all the forms of violence inflicted upon them, domestic violence is the most prevalent. But despite its prevalence, domestic violence largely goes unreported and often even unrecognised.
It is to draw attention to all the forms of domestic violence that go unnoticed that Swayam, a Kolkata-based organisation that is committed to advancing women's rights and ending inequality and violence against women and girls, has released a set of three short films in Hindi and in English.
Created by Swayam and Ogilvy, India, and executed by Rising Sun Films, these 25-second films, released via an online programme on March 16, focus on forms of domestic violence like economic, mental and emotional violence.
“In our 27 years of work we have seen women come in with all kinds of domestic violence but most people equate domestic violence with physical abuse. There are many other forms of domestic violence that people don’t talk about like mental, sexual, economic and these forms of violence are as debilitating, if not more, than physical abuse and we wanted to highlight these forms of violence,” said Anuradha Kapoor, director of Swayam.
Piyush Pandey, Shoojit Sircar, Sohini Sengupta, Mansi Kadne and Anuradha Kapoor at the launch of the films
The three films aim to make us understand that there is abuse beyond the physical
The forms of domestic violence highlighted in the films are often not even recognised by the women themselves. They aim to make women, as well as society, understand that there is abuse beyond the physical.
Another misconception that these films want to address is that women face domestic violence in their matrimonial homes, but that is not true pointed out Kapoor, who spoke about how the violence starts in the womb and is therefore meted out even in their parental homes.
The first of the three films shows a woman doing finances and shedding tears as she realises that she can’t tally the Loose Change. “Men controlling and questioning expenses, that is a form of domestic violence. Recognise it” – read the message at the end of the film.
A scene from the film titled ‘Loose Change’
The second film shows a man burning an appointment letter. “Men denying women the right to be financially independent, that is a form of domestic violence. Recognise it” – read the message at the end of Appointment.
The third film shows a man throwing a bowl of dal at a woman. “Men expressing their anger violently that’s a form of domestic violence. Recognise it” – read the message at the end of Thali.
One of the most striking things about the films is that it doesn’t put a face to either the perpetrator or the one facing domestic violence. It also conveys subtly that domestic violence happens across all classes, through sometimes the chipped nail polish on the woman’s hand or jewellery worn by the woman.
These were things that happened to people you know and most often accepted: Mansi Kadne
“When we first talked about the films I thought that this was domestic violence and we would be showing a woman who's bruised and some violence against her. But when I heard the concept, I had goosebumps. These were things that happened to people you know and most often accepted, because ‘chalta hai’. Most often people don’t even recognise it. Not the women who are facing it nor the perpetrators of it, and by putting these films out there, you are making everyone aware of their actions,” said Mansi Kadne, who directed the films.
Director Mansi Kadne speaks at the launch of the films
Men overlook things that they don’t know are hurting somebody: Shoojit Sircar
For Shoojit Sircar, whose Rising Sun Films executed the campaign, domestic violence is an issue that is of crucial importance. “I have been associated with a lot of campaigns on women and domestic violence. My first film, Mann ke Manjeere, addressed the issue of domestic violence. Men, through families and traditions, overlook things that they don’t know are hurting somebody, especially the respect and dignity of women,” said Sircar, who committed to working on more such campaigns with Swayam.
These films make you think if you are being fair to the person living in your house: Piyush Pandey
Piyush Pandey, chairman of Global Creative and executive chairman, Ogilvy India, believes that the issue of domestic violence requires a sustained campaign. “I have understood that any change is easier than behaviour change, which takes a long time. So we have to keep at it,” said Pandey. “You're bringing out the nuances of domestic violence. You’re reminding people that you think you’re very nice, but you’re not very nice, you’re hurting somebody somewhere. You are violating somebody’s right to live. These films shake you up and make you think about whether you’re behaving appropriately, if you are being fair to the person living in your house, your wife or your sister, whoever it is,” he added.
What women want is simple, it is just a little bit of respect: Sohini Sengupta
The films were officially released by theatre and film personality Sohini Sengupta, who spoke about how the films moved her. “What women want is simple, it is just a little bit of respect,” said Sengupta, adding that it was fitting that she was releasing these films even as she was in the middle of shooting a film where she is the perpetrator of patriarchy. “These films hold up issues that we see around us but sometimes don’t notice or recognise as domestic violence.”
The release of the films was followed by a panel discussion where three women, Jacintha Allen, Ruksana Rahman and Gargee De, survivors of domestic violence, spoke about their experiences and how these films felt so relatable to them.
A panel discussion where survivors of domestic violence spoke about their experiences and how these films felt so relatable
Women are safer outside than they are in their own homes: Anuradha Kapoor
“It is said that home is the safest place for women. But is it actually true? According to statistics one in three women in India face domestic violence either in the parental home or their matrimonial home. And even though domestic violence is recognised as a crime and there are laws, both criminal and civil, against domestic violence it is still largely condoned by society. I always say that women are safer outside than they are in their own homes,” said Kapoor.