A large gathering of women attended a public meeting, which was organised by community activist, Jayraj Bachu, at the Saligram Hall, last week.
The meeting was held to increase awareness of the negative impact of violence and abuse against women and children. This coincided with the 16 Days of Activism for no Violence against Women and Children Campaign which runs globally from November 25 until December 10.
Bachu said the rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world. He urged everyone that they should watch the Bollywood movie ‘Secret Superstar’. The story is about a young 15-year-old school girl whose spirit is ripped because her mother is in a troubled and violent marriage. She still dares to pursue her dream of becoming a singer and also valiantly attempts to free her battered mother from the shackles of a loveless marriage.
The teenager wants the world to hear her voice and appreciate her talents. The only problem is her temperamental and orthodox father. He’s the closeted and abusive head of the house who just doesn’t understand or care. He beats his wife at a whim and doesn’t even acknowledge the emotions of his daughter let alone acting upon them.
“In orthodox societies, the dominant role is often played by the husband or father and so much so that any instances of questioning his authority is construed as undermining the authority of the patriarch. What must be understood by those who contribute this customary dominance is that women and even children have the same mental capacity in making reasonable decisions. It is important that there is interaction, debate and discussions on issues that may be controversial. Where such democracy prevails that family is wholesome,” said Bachu.
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The chief guest speaker was Satish Dhupelia, who works closely with Sydenham SAPS, Metro Police and the Abused Desk for Women and Children. “Of course, in an ideal world, we should all be taking responsibility for eradicating gender-based violence every day, but our shameful statistics show this is not the case,” said Dhupelia.
He gave examples of how women approach him for help and when he guides and directs them on what they need to do, they are reluctant to take his advice. He said, “Please, don’t look away, don’t be a victim, act against abuse and talk to friends, relatives or colleagues.”
Sydenham police spokesman, Cpt Myentherin Lazarus and Cpt Van der Walt, spoke about the different structures and legislation that government has in place and the role that police play in helping women who have been abused by their husbands or boyfriends.
Cpt Ravi Mahabeer and Insp Anthony Pattison of Metro Police gave a demonstration on how women can defend themselves against abusive partners and when they are attacked by criminals.
At the end of the function, each women was handed gift hampers and provided with hot meals which were sponsored by Lakehaven Pharmacy of Newlands West.