Mumbai: Over 5,000 survivors of sexual violence across the country Thursday embarked on a 65-day-long ‘Dignity March’ from the city, which will culminate in New Delhi on February 22, its organisers said.
The march has been organised by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, a group of NGOs. It will cover 200 districts across 24 states/union territories and traverse over 10,000 kms.
Abhiyan’s convener Ashif Sheikh said over 5,000 survivors of sexual assault will highlight their plight through this “unique and first of its kind” march.
“The march eyes to end shaming and stigmatisation of the survivors of rape and sexual violence. The survivors, along with their families and other social actors will create a ‘national survivor network’ to ensure their participation in framing of policies and implementation of laws and guidelines against sexual violence,” he said.
Actors Tisca Chopra and Sudha Chandran, Stop Acid Attacks campaigner Laxmi Agarwal, activist and gang-rape survivor Bhanwari Devi, CEO of EdelGive Foundation Vidya Shah, Centre for Law and Policy Research’s Jayna Kothari, among others, were present at the launch of the march at Somaiya Ground here.
On Wednesday, on the eve of the march, dozens of rape and trafficking victims, including activist and gang-rape Bhanwari Devi, addressed a press conference here and demanded that the Centre, the state governments as well as the law enforcing agencies need to protect the dignity and “womanhood” of such survivors.
“By organising and taking part in this march, we want to show a mirror to all the governments that nothing has changed and if a victim like us dare to protest against sexual violence, we still have to go through several ordeals. We want each and every rapist to be put behind bars and survivors should hold their heads high,” Bhanwari Devi said.
Another woman, who was subjected to rape in a jail in Baitul district of Madhya Pradesh, said she was still paying the price for protesting against sexual offences. She added that she is “socially outcast” wherever she goes.
“At a time when everyone should lend support to us (rape survivors), we are singled out and ostracised. But we are not going to be defeated,” she said.
Sheikh said in most cases of sexual violence, the survivors are held responsible, blamed and stigmatised.
“Through this Dignity March, we want to sensitise the people and change their mindset to end the stigmatisation of survivors,” Sheikh said.
The march will take forward the #MeToo campaign at the ground level, he added.