16 days of activism is an international campaign against Gender-Based Violence which is commemorated in the name of voicing the unheard narratives of the survivors and activists. In a world where victims are put on blast with heinous blame and perpetrators leave the scene without anyone blinking, it is now time we take a step ahead to set things in the right order. Gender-Based Violence has been normalized to a degree that victims are led to feel as if they deserve the blame and perpetrators are led to believe they’ve done nothing wrong. On the way to restore morality and human rights, 16 days of activism helps reinforce unity against Gender-Based Violence, and in such regards, it is marked each year from November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to December 10, Human Rights Day. This international campaign was initiated by the activists at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991.
Patriarchy, in the majority of countries, has caused women and gender identities outside the binary box to be more vulnerable to Gender-Based Violence. The societal hierarchy and stereotypical division of gender roles have suppressed the majority of vulnerable groups behind the power of some men. Therefore, in a way to liberate them from the oppression caused by patriarchy, people around the world come together to wage their opinions and actions against Gender-Based Violence, bringing awareness and challenging the flaws in legislature during this campaign.
With numerous headlining campaigns in recent years such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NotOneMore, activists and survivors have been able to make a permanent mark on the issue of Gender-Based Violence through united voices and uncompromising narratives. In 2019, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence was marked under the theme, “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape!”
In a country like Nepal, the patriarchal system with constant conflict for power and control has made our societies unsafe for girls. In such a conservative setting, the victims and survivors are silenced due to the fear of being outcasted or not believed. The stigma surrounding rape constitutes a complex surrounding for a survivor to put their story out. While it is very difficult to prove a rape case backed with concrete evidence, the impunity for perpetrators makes it harder to find appropriate measures to gain justice.
Police records showed a total of 905 rape cases were recorded in 2013-14, which increased to 2,233 in 2018-19, which suggests an increase of 146 percent in rape cases in Nepal. The number goes higher as we speak of women from under-privileged backgrounds and those prohibited from social stigma surrounding rape to officially file a complaint. For scenarios as such, the theme of this year plays out very well to weaponize 16 days of activism, to bring out the untold, bereft stories and make a statement, not just for an individual but for the whole world that this culture of rape and victim-blaming has to end.
With respect to the theme, the color orange puts a ray of sunshine for a new day filled with energy, power and optimism. The theme itself makes a statement to hold hands and paint a picture of an orange world where this generation has been united through equality; where we do not accept and tolerate rape to any extent. The vibrancy and illumination of the color orange makes it almost impossible for a bystander to not take a notice. Hence, the campaign plays a crucial role to create and bring its purposeful theme to reality by motivating active participation from everyone from all walks of life.
Different narratives from different corners of the world can be seen in social media especially with hashtags like #Orangetheworld and #GenerationEquality. It’s a good place to start but we still have a long way to reach equality and eliminate rape altogether. The first step always starts within yourself; so broaden your perspective, speak out, stop victim-blaming and start having conversations about Gender-Based Violence. In doing so, we are committing to ourselves that we are not abiding by patriarchy and standing up against rape to create a society fueled with equality and unity.
– Sulav Ratna Bajracharya
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