We Call Them Survivors

Recently, I stumbled upon a video which shook me out of my sense for a while. “We Call Them Survivors” is a Swedish documentary, made by Csaba Czinkoczky, and is an in-depth study on the womb-to-tomb violence against women in India, with special focus on sexual violence.

This 2014 documentary, is about 25 minutes long, and is a mix of personal accounts of survivors and those working in the field of violence against women, as well as a voice-over which provides an insight into the state of women in India, along with some alarming statistics. While a large proportion of the voice-over is in Swedish, it still managed to leave a chill in my bones.

Our Director, Dr. Ranjana Kumari, talks about the psyche of those who engage in sexual violence, and says that it happens due to an inherent sense of power bestowed by society on men. She also talks about the blame game is which played, wherein the victim is deemed responsible for what has happened to them. The girl is always said to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, instead of blame being placed on the perpetrator. In Dr. Kumari’s words “All the time it is what you wore, why were you there in the night, why were you drinking…so blame her for what is happening to her.

The video also talks about the insensitive behavior of the police officials and the long drawn out judicial process, which often leads to under-reporting of instances of sexual violence. Dr Kumari also goes on to say that dowry is a social evil which is one of the root causes of sexual violence, and violence against women in general. Amitabh Kumar, Head of Media and Communications at CSR, says that discrimination is meted out from the birth of a girl, and that is what causes all the violence against women later on in life.

Other professionals in the field discussed various anecdotes of sexual violence, and what kind of techniques can be used to resolve these cases. Anubhuti Vatsayan, from CSR, talked about how instead of referring a case to the police, CSR focuses first on counseling and third party mediation, so as to try and resolve cases in a peaceful manner.

Nothing in the video is new- these are things which I have been hearing since time immemorial, and continue to read about every day in the newspapers. Yet something about the bare facts which are presented in the video in a very simple manner, created a feeling of helplessness in me. The first person accounts were horrifying to listen to, and it made me feel that no matter how emancipated a woman feels, the evil of sexual violence will always follow. And that, I believe, is a failure of our society.

However, not all is grim. In the video, Dr Kumari says that with increasing awareness, women and girls are now speaking up more, and standing up for issues which affect them. I hope we all, women and men alike, learn to stand up and speak up for these issues, which affect not just individuals, but also our entire nation.

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