Candles have been distributed among the audience here at the open Shilpakala Academy arena. We will be lighting candles in solidarity with the uprising at Shahbag’s Projonmo Chottor. Khushi Kobirsaid on stagr ”We have not forgotten the rapes of 71. We have cannot and will not forget. We cannot forget the rapes and violence till date. In solidarity with the nation, and Shahbagh, we will be lighting candles at 7pm”
It is a different day today in Bangladesh. There is a different air, a different aura, like never before. People from all walks of life, locations, across the country have taken to the street. Women, men, children, every one are walking on the streets demanding an end to a culture. A culture that has been “normal”, “private”, “silent”. A society which treated violence against women as a “normal’ issue has shown their support today as they occupied the streets in Dhaka and across all districts in Bangladesh.
“Silence- NO MORE”, chanted women and men. ‘NO MORE violence against women, they sang in unison as they took the streets today at 1 pm. These were people who stepped out of small shops, factories, construction sites, stations, offices, households, everywhere from across Bangladesh.
Human chains were formed in Lalmonihaat, Faridpur, Magura, Barisal, Khulna, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and all other districts across Bangladesh!
In Dhaka, following human chains, we have moved to Shilpakala academy field now. Here we have organized a festival to play a tribute to women across Bangladesh, across the world. Numerous performances are taking place here. Arnob is on stage now as we write this post, come join us as we celebrate womanhood, as we stand in solidarity to say NO to violence against women. It has been way too long, the time has come!
Next few performances include Shadhona dance, Action Aid shelter home girls’ performance, Shomporker Noya Shetu, Krishnokali, and more! We will be singing Jagoroner Gaan at 6.30 this evening. We will be lighting candles in solidarity with Shahbagh and the entire nation at 7pm.
Uddomey Uttoroney Shotokoti (One Billion Rising), an alliance of rights groups, government and private sector institutions, cultural groups, students and activists, mobilised millions of women and men across the country to rise up, walk out and demand an end to violence against women on Thursday (Feb 14) to mark the global ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign being observed. This was along side 200 other countries who gathered to demand an end to violence against women.
With extraordinary solidarity, women and men, from all walks of life, formed human chains from 1 pm in over 42 locations all over Dhaka city, as well as in all 66 districts of the country. The longest stretch of the human chain was formed from Mirpur to Asad gate moving up to the Parliament building, where Parliamentarians and MPs joined together in solidarity against violence against women. In a historical stance across the country, offices, factories, schools, universities, TV stations, media, agencies, everywhere, people stepped out and stood in solidarity at 1 pm.
With over 384 supporting organizations, millions of workers from different sectors, and people from diverse occupations were mobilized.
To express their stand and demand an end to violence against women, some of the slogans chanted included ‘No more silence’, ‘we demand a rape free society’, ‘we have not forgotten the rapes of 71 and we will not tolerate violence today, ‘May every place be safe for women’.
In red attires, and hoisting red clothes, women and men joined across the country in numbers larger than ever before, for a cause that has been long overdue. The men and women across Bangladesh not only showed their solidarity but also brought home the fact that women’s rights issue is not secondary, personal or isolated. It is a national issue and the time for the society to act has come.
In addition to the nationwide programme, from 3pm, a cultural festival titled ‘Protibaad Kori, Protirodh gori’(OBR Bangladesh) is starting at Shilpakala Academy. The festival will play a tribute to women across Bangladesh and using various forms of artworks, dances, skits, recitations, music, and screenings.
Powerful visuals and art works were displayed to depict the message of breaking the silence, the shackles and challenges faced by Bangladesh women. Each image, each display and portrayal of performances also gave the message that the time is NOW. To stand up, to strike the core of violence and RISE against patriarchy and every force that limits women and their freedom.
The powerful event will followed by a concert, titled ‘No More- Aar Na!’. Artistes at the concert include Arnob, Pantha kanai, Nemesis, Stone Free, Chirkut, Warda Ashraf, Krishnokoli and many others.
The objective of this widespread protest across Bangladesh is to break the silence and inaction about violence against women. The reason for choosing Valentine’s Day is because there is a need to bring about a change in the commercialised nature of the day and establish it to be about loving and respecting women.
The women’s rights movement in Bangladesh has been moving ahead with numerous recent achievements and this movement aims to further strengthen the actions so that more survivors and their families speak up and that they are not denied justice.
February 14 is not an end, but rather a starting point and a step forward for future discussions and action on violence against women. OBR member organisations will use this platform to consolidate and coordinate their efforts where possible and challenge discriminatory practices and laws through awareness-raising activities, training, outreach, advocacy etc.
By Tamanna Hossain
Society loves reminding us time and time again, that our situation has improved vastly over the past century. Many women are now allowed to have an existence beyond their homes and their men, be it through education, a career, independent friend-circles or non-domestic hobbies. So with a hint of impatience and unguarded rebuke we are asked – what more do we want? Why can’t we be content with the scraps patriarchy has thrown our way?
Because despite the concessions we have so magnanimously been granted, we are still being harassed, beaten, and raped in the streets, in our homes, and in our bedrooms. Because assaulting us is still seen as a bad habit men have rather than a conscious, violent choice punishable by law.
Because we are still blamed when we are raped, violated, and our bodily integrity torn to shreds. Because we are still called sluts and whores who “asked for it” instead of being given the justice we deserve and often need in order to heal. Because we are told to shut up and suck it up in the name of vague notions like “family honour” and “social reputation”.
Because our moral integrity is tied to the status of our hymen. Because, we are hyper-sexualized but not allowed to be sexual. Because, our sexuality is presented as being either passive or destructive. Because,we are not allowed healthy acknowledgments, let alone expressions, of our sexuality without losing our value as a human being.
Because, we are defined by the color of our skin and the number on our weighing machines. Because, virtual strangers feel entitled to provide unsolicited judgment and advice regarding our bodies. Because, we are expected to smile politely, while publicly evaluated and found wanting. Because we live in a white-washed, post-colonial nightmare where being dark skinned is ugly.
Because we can’t earn more than our husbands without emasculating him. Because it’s considered ridiculous to expect our husbands to cook, clean and be supportive. Because wife-beating is seen as an embarrassing habit rather than a crime. Because marital rape is still an oxymoron.
Because we are expected to laugh at rape jokes that act as violent reminders of violent crimes. Because we are seen as nit-picking shrews when we complain about degrading, gendered language that normalizes and perpetuates patriarchal roles. Because “being a pussy” represents weakness and “having balls” conveys strength, even though pussies can take a pounding and balls hurt easy.
Because women fighting for their rights are painted as paranoid, malcontent home-wreckers who are either man-hating prudes or uncontrolled sluts out to make sluts of everyone.
Because double standards, misogyny, and gender violence are a part of the very fabric of human society, not just in Bangladesh, but everywhere.
Because the list of reasons why we fight can’t possibly end here.
Tamanna graduated from Lawrence University with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy. She is the former president of the Lawrence University chapter of V-Day and is a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Theta. She is now a part of VDAY Dhaka and One Billion Rising Campaign in Bangladesh.
Silence about Violence against Women- NO MORE!
Narir Proti Shohingshota Aar Na – Protibaad kori, Protirodh Gori
No More Violence against Women – Let’s Protest, Let’s Resist
Uddomey Uttoroney Shotokoti (One Billion Rising), an alliance of rights groups, government and private sector institutions, cultural groups, students and activists, is set to mobilise women and men across the country to rise up, walk out and demand an end to violence against women on Thursday (Feb 14) to mark the global ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign being observed.
In Bangladesh, women and men will rise from 1 pm to 1.30 pm in various locations all over Dhaka city as well as in all 66 districts of the country. Instead of one centralised location, the demonstrations will take place in over 39 points in Dhaka and all other districts, including many upazilas and unions across Bangladesh. We call upon people from all walks of life to form similar human-chains and join the awareness programme taking place in the locality and express solidarity. We encourage all to wear red and hoist a red cloth in front of each house, office, factory and other establishments.
In addition to the nationwide programme, a cultural festival titled ‘Uddomey Uttoroney Shotokoti’(OBR Bangladesh) will be held at Shilpakala Academy from 3pm-10pm on the day with space for anyone who pledges to Resist and Protest violence against women to join the movement and RISE with us. The event will start with performances from school children and university youths and also art and photography exhibitions. There will be performances by Nagorik and Shadhona. The evening will also have a concert “No More – Aar Na” with renowned artists like Panthokanai, Chirkut, Palki, Warda Ashraf, Stone Freee, Krishnakoli, Nemesis and many others.
One Billion Rising is a global movement to end violence against women. As many as 200 countries and territories have pledged to rise in solidarity with the global movement. In Bangladesh, the campaign, called ‘Uddomey Uttoroney Shotokoti’, has been carried out in collaboration with different stakeholders.
In the lead up to 14 February, OBR Bangladesh has been implementing a series of activities to create awareness about violence against women and the conditions that not only allow but make inevitable such violations of women to continue unabated. We have over 334 organizations who are actively participating in and supporting the OBR movement.
The objective of this widespread protest across Bangladesh is to break the silence and inaction about violence against women. The reason for choosing Valentine’s Day is because there is a need to bring about a change in the commercialised nature of the day and establish it to be about loving and respecting women. ‘We want everyone to vow on this day that they won’t just give flowers to the women in their lives, but also ensure that they are never subjected to violence,” said Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir, explaining the reasons for choosing February 14 as the day of RISING.
Our lives, as women, in Bangladesh, are founded on a twisted interpretation of “Honour”. This concept is based not on honesty, integrity and fairness, but rather on some perceived “worthiness” and “respectability”. In this light, the Bangladeshi family is viewed as a unit of honour, and the family affects a woman’s identity and social standing; simultaneously, there exists a mutual feedback loop wherein a woman’s conduct, and how it is perceived by others and the society at large, has an impact on the family.
Therefore, it becomes important for us to fulfil the expectations held by family and society in order to be accepted and to experience feelings of belonging to this central institution that we are tied to through birth or marriage.
Unfortunately, the reality of maintaining this honour in our lives is often at odds with our own individual freedom, choice, will or achievement. Our lives are not based on “freedom”, on “liberty” or on the ability to live within a free spirited space. Yet, as a nation, as a society, collectively, we pride ourselves on values such as freedom and democracy.
There is a great deal of research on-going on women across the world, and specifically in South Asia. Increasingly, there are cold hard statistics that clearly indicate escalating levels of violence against women. Missing in these numbers are numerous unreported nightmares faced by women in trying to reconcile with their place in society. No amount of progress in terms of education, class, and development has resulted in the evolution of our society.
Every move, every decision that a woman takes must ensure that this honour is restored. So, when a girl is raped or sexually abused by family members, it becomes a secret that must be kept forever, because it will hurt the “honour” or the social standing of the family. Honour, then, is far more important than any damage created within the daughters of families. So, the daughters of these numerous honourable families go through abuse thrice in their lifetime- first, when the actual event occurs; second, in the aftermath of dealing with trauma for a lifetime, and third, dealing with the silence and ignorance of her family.
Even outside of the family boundaries, if a woman is sexually harassed, abused or raped, it is still her duty to keep the honour of her family intact. If she does stand up and fight it, which entails breaking away from silence and talking about it, will invariably hurt the honour of the family, of the acquaintances, of the greater society. Starting from families and the greater society, everyone will continue to use their combined forces to “justify” rape or any form sexual assault- “she was not honourable enough”, she was not dressed appropriately”, “It must have been her fault” and more.
The streets tell women that sexual harassment is all right and honour has a different meaning than we think. Being grabbed, being pinched, being verbally abused is normal. ‘A little bit of sexual abuse is all right and it is common’, that’s what they will tell you. Silence is the “key”. Who would appreciate a woman standing up in the street and creating a chaos? This is definitely not respectful or honourable in the eyes of our society.
Even in a marriage, it must be the woman who must keep that honour intact. Once you sign up, no amount of violence or emotional abuse is justified enough for a decision for walking away. It is the woman’s duty to maintain the honour of her family and her in-laws. Being pushed or thrown by your husband, in the middle of a fight, is simply a moment of anger and nothing more. It in no way indicates violent tendencies. Leaving is often not the first choice a woman is able to take, because walking out leads to series of battles with their own families and the entire society.
Honour even extends to our achievements as women. How can you, as a woman, achieve so much in your work place or in your career? How can an honourable woman put her career first? There must have been something wrong. It is not about intelligence or efficiency or anything more.
It does not end. Honour extends to how we, as women carry ourselves. From what we wear, to what we do, to whom we mingle with, and what we say, is constantly under scrutiny. If you are a daughter of an honourable family, if you are the wife of an honourable husband, if you are a mother, you must maintain the norms that this society has created for you and live up to the expectations that the society has carefully designed for you.
It never ends, really. Not from birth; not even till our very last breath.
Many men, and unfortunately women themselves, too, believe that the well-being of the entire society lies on the shoulders of a woman and, more importantly, in her ability to suffer every wrong, in utter and submissive silence. This means that, while there will be many legal and technical arguments, the actual arena in which all cases of violence against women may be won or lost are the hearts and minds of the ordinary men and women of our society. Because it is really not the law alone that has failed to prevent violence against women; it is the collective, colossal force of prejudice, chauvinism and insensitivity of this very society that has brought us where we are. Unless we change this mindset, unless we change the fundamentals through which we shape a woman’s place in this society, we will continue the twisted legacy of imposing our perverse sense of honour on our daughters, and on women for decades to come.
Tahmina Shafique works in an international development agency in Bangladesh. She is a part of VDAY Dhaka and a member of the core organizing group of One Billion Rising Campaign Bangladesh.