One day, we would like to see there is zero tolerance towards violence against women and children
Stanly and Parashuram were researching a story in a village when they encountered Radhamma, a prostituted woman who challenged them to face up to the realities of women in prostitution, and opened their eyes to the horrors of trafficking. At the time, no other organisations in Mysore were supporting women in prostitution, and as two men, they have often been treated with suspicion. However, despite being ostracised, threatened and shunned by police, authorities, pimps, their own friends and some members of their own families, Stanly and Parashuram have been spurred on by the courage of the women they supported, and are determined to contribute to a world where women are treated with equal respect and can live in a world without violence.
India is a country which suffers from massive inequalities, and although the status of women has significantly improved over the years, many women who are doubly marginalised due to poverty, caste and stigma (to name a few) have seen little change in their circumstances. Stanly and Parashuram regard this as a consequence of entrenched attitudes and beliefs, and see the fundamental solution as being respect. Lack of respect for fellow human beings, is what drives all forms of violence and discrimination because, as they say, if you respect someone, how can you conceive of exploiting them?
Odanadi, a grassroots anti-trafficking, anti-violence organisation based in Mysore, South India, was started in the early 1990s by Stanly and Parashuram - two men, then working as journalists who were inspired to become social activists. Odanadi passionately believes that men have a vital role to play in achieving gender equality and eliminating violence against women, and they must be positively engaged in solutions, rather than being perceived as the problem. Stanly views the role of fathers as particularly important, and points to his own father’s example as to why he is empathetic with women’s rights: “If I change, and my family changes, my children change. My father was good, he encouraged me, he gave me good lessons –that’s why I’m like this. If my father was a womaniser and he had regular [negative] thoughts about prostitutes, he wouldn’t have supported me”.
Stanly and Parashuram believe education (including sexual, reproductive and relationship education in schools), awareness and economic independence are essential tools in improving the situation for women. To this end, Odanadi works in rural villages, with students, social workers, local government representatives and law enforcement to sensitise them on gender issues, trafficking and laws, duties and responsibilities, to reduce incidence of trafficking and gender based violence, and improve authorities’ responses and support to victims. And this is something men must understand and be involved with at all levels, from the village to the High Court.
We shall leave the last word to Stanly, who summarises his vision: “I wish all people to have equality, equal opportunity, irrespective of their standards, sex and creed. That should be the ideal society for India. Trafficking is a by-product of all these problems, there are so many issues pushing trafficking forward. Because of social discrimination, casteism, because there is no equal opportunity for all, because women are looked down upon by the patriarchal system. These are the bigger issues which are the root causes of human trafficking. One day, we would like to see there is zero tolerance towards violence against women and children”. Now let’s try to achieve this vision, together.
This is part of the Men Say No Blogathon: www.mustbol.in/team-blog
You can follow Odanadi on Twitter @Odanadi and @YogaStopTraffic.
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