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Addressing Gender-based Violence & The Way Forward – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Addressing Gender-based Violence & the Way Forward

Session Report
Ananya Anand

Centre for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) and Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute organized LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship- Cohort 2.0 Winter’23 which is an A One-Month Immersive Online Law and Public Policy Awareness Certificate Training Course and Internship Program. The theme of this course is Promoting Human Rights and Ending Gender-Based Violence. On Day 5 of the program Ms ElsaMarie D’Silva, Founder, Red Dot Foundation (India); President, Red Dot Foundation (USA), gave a presentation on Addressing Gender-based Violence & the Way Forward. 

ElsaMarie D’Silva’s presentation on addressing gender-based violence (GBV) and the path forward was a profound exploration of the pervasive issue that affects millions globally. The presentation was not merely an analytical overview but a deeply personal journey into ElsaMarie’s own experiences and the collective narratives of countless individuals who have endured gender-based violence. The aim was to shed light on the urgency of addressing this critical societal challenge and to present Safe City, an innovative solution aimed at creating safer spaces and amplifying the voices of survivors.

ElsaMarie commenced her presentation by recounting a triggering moment in her life—the notorious gang rape incident on a bus in Delhi involving Jyoti Singh. This incident served as a catalyst that compelled ElsaMarie to confront and revisit her own suppressed experiences of being groped on public transportation, witnessing public masturbation, enduring sexual harassment in the workplace, and more. She described how this dark moment prompted her and many of her friends to reflect on their own encounters with gender-based violence and to realize that a common thread united their stories—none of them had reported these incidents.

Drawing from her extensive career in the aviation industry, where historical data was crucial for making informed business decisions, ElsaMarie recognized a parallel in understanding gender-based violence patterns. If nobody was reporting instances of sexual violence, it meant there was a significant data gap. Contrasting the reported prevalence of gender-based violence, which stands at one in three women experiencing it at least once in their lifetime according to the UN, ElsaMarie noted that her own sample size suggested a much higher occurrence—close to 100%. This revelation raised critical questions about the underreporting of such incidents and the need to bridge the information divide.

ElsaMarie’s presentation unveiled the multifaceted nature of gender-based violence, extending beyond physical assault. She delineated the non-verbal forms, such as staring, taking pictures without consent, and indecent gestures; verbal forms, including commenting, catcalling, and online harassment; and physical forms, ranging from touching and groping to assault, rape, and even murder. This comprehensive exploration highlighted the various ways in which individuals experience violence, both in public and private spaces, emphasizing the gravity of the issue.

Technology and Gender-based Violence

Acknowledging the evolving landscape, ElsaMarie brought attention to technology-facilitated gender-based violence. In the digital age, acts of violence can seamlessly traverse between online and offline spaces, blurring the lines between virtual and physical harm. This phenomenon, termed technology-facilitated gender-based violence, encompasses instances where individuals may be groomed online, leading to physical violence, or vice versa. ElsaMarie emphasized the need to recognize these digital dimensions and address them as integral components of the broader issue.

ElsaMarie underscored the normalization of gender-based violence in daily life, particularly in cultures where such behaviors are dismissed as trivial or even expected. In the Indian context, she pointed out the term ‘Eve teasing,’ which downplays the seriousness of the experiences women face, contributing to the normalization of harassment. By unpacking the normalization of violence, ElsaMarie sought to challenge societal acceptance and highlight the urgent need for change.

A crucial aspect of ElsaMarie’s presentation was the recognition that gender-based violence does not occur in isolation but within the broader context of societal structures. She delved into the concept of patriarchy, emphasizing its role in perpetuating violence and creating an environment where perpetrators often go unpunished. The presentation encouraged a deeper understanding of the societal dynamics that allow gender-based violence to thrive, pushing for a dismantling of patriarchal norms and a more profound societal shift.

ElsaMarie referenced data from NITI Aayog on Sustainable Development Goal 5, which is dedicated to gender equality. The statistics revealed alarming disparities in women’s representation in political leadership, labor force participation, and skewed sex ratios at birth. The presentation also highlighted India’s poor performance on global development indexes, ranking as the most dangerous place for women according to the Thomson Reuters perception survey.

The Birth of Safe City

Motivated by the imperative to address the data gap and create safer spaces, ElsaMarie, along with her team, launched Safe City. This innovative crowd-mapping platform serves as an anonymous space for reporting personal experiences of sexual and gender-based violence. Available in multiple languages and utilized in 20 countries globally, Safe City aims to bridge the data gap, raise awareness, and empower communities to take action.

ElsaMarie provided a detailed overview of the Safe City platform, explaining its functionality and purpose. The platform collects and publishes reports in an open-source format, allowing users to explore patterns and trends by location and category. The emphasis on user privacy is evident, with the platform aligning with the European data standard for privacy (GDPR). The presentation also highlighted the platform’s role in providing information and resources to individuals reporting incidents.

ElsaMarie shared impactful case studies from various locations, demonstrating how Safe City’s data has led to positive community-driven changes. Examples included improvements in transportation for girls in Satara, community engagement in Nairobi’s informal settlements, and collaborations with city officials in Quezon City, Brazil, and Sao Lorenzo.

A key component of ElsaMarie’s approach involves empowering youth, especially young men, to become advocates against gender-based violence. The presentation showcased the success of youth-led initiatives in various locations, illustrating the potential for positive change when young individuals are educated

Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Tanu Paliwal, a research intern at IMPRI.

Read more at IMPRI:

Hands On Session IV : Gender Based Violence

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IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

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