'One Billion Rising' Campaigns To End Violence Against Women Women from around the globe held rallies on Valentine's Day to take up the cause of ending sexual violence. A demonstration in New Delhi is particularly poignant following the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student.

'One Billion Rising' Campaigns To End Violence Against Women

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Valentine's Day saw women from around the globe take up the cause of ending sexual violence. From London to Los Angeles to Johannesburg, street exhibitions, dance performances and protest rallies were all held under the slogan One Billion Rising. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi, where revulsion over the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student deepened the significance of the global campaign.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The dancing and drumming that reverberated in central Delhi last night...


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Jai ho, jai ho. Jai ho, jai ho.

MCCARTHY: ...were meant to highlight a sobering United Nations assessment: that one in three women in the world - or roughly one billion - suffers some sort of violence at the hands of men in the course of her lifetime.

Urging people to join the One Billion Rising campaign, Indian musician Anoushka Shankar - daughter of the late sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar - revealed in a video this week that she had been the victim of sexual violence.


ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: As a child, I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly. And as a woman, I find I'm frequently living in fear, afraid to walk alone at night. And, you know, enough is enough. So join me. Let's rise. Let's dance.

EVE ENSLER: Statistics reveal that on an average, 26,000 women are raped every other day.

MCCARTHY: Eve Ensler, author of the "Vagina Monologues," is the founder of One Billion Rising. She credits widespread coverage of both the gang rape in Delhi and the Taliban shooting of the young girl in Pakistan for spurring this global outpouring to end violence against women.

Thousands danced in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Philippines. San Francisco saw flash mobs that drew people with eye-catching outbursts of dance and theatrics. In Delhi, the campaign's Southeast Asia coordinator, Kamala Bhasin, called it a fight against hatred and patriarchy that deliberately coincided with February 14th.


KAMALA BHASIN: On this St. Valentine's Day, we are saying we don't want violence. We want love. What kind of love? Just love. Loved based on justice, love based on equality, just love based on mutual respect.

MCCARTHY: Bhasin said that patriarchy had united with capitalism to produce the lucrative industries of pornography and cosmetics and Barbie dolls.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

MCCARTHY: But make-up and expensive toys do not count in the life of Hukum Bai, who barely ekes out of living as street vendor. Joining her sister vendors in song, she says she's tired of enduring harassment from police who chase her off the pavement.

HUKUM BAI: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: When we tell them we need to feed our children, the authorities say to us: Why didn't you ask us for permission before you had those children? she says. One Billion Rising, with its innovative protests, is ephemeral. But the Ford Foundation's Delhi representative, Kavita Ramdas, says it is still deeply meaningful for many women.

KAVITA RAMDAS: This issue of violence against women has been so buried, so silenced, so much of our women not showing themselves, not being heard, that although it seems kind of frivolous, or like how can you really make a change, it's so important for women to feel like we can take up public space.

MCCARTHY: Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi.

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