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16 Days of Activism: Working to end violence against women globally

Posted: 14 December 2023

Scholar's Platform,

The global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence runs from 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) until 10 December (Human Rights Day). As part of the campaign, this year Australia Awards scholars were invited watch the film Provoked (2006) and reflect on its message. Provoked is a biographical drama based on the life of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, who unintentionally killed her abusive husband. The film gave scholars a chance to examine their own understanding of gender-based violence. The following piece was written by Australia Awards scholar Rakshya Risal of Nepal.

Scholar and author of this piece, Rakshya Risal of Nepal.

The movie Provoked unveils the brutal realities of subordination, marginalisation and vulnerability faced by women within abusive relationships. It portrays the legal system often not being impartial and adequate in addressing the coercion and multiple forms of violence faced by women: subjecting victims to lifetime imprisonment instead of providing justice and pathways to get out of abusive situations. This film serves as a powerful catalyst for raising awareness about domestic violence, challenging entrenched patriarchy and dismantling gender stereotypes.

As we engage in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Provoked prompts us to recognise the urgent need for prevention and protection of women’s rights in the face of domestic violence. The overarching message is clear: Domestic violence unfolds in layers of brutality and injustice towards women, and the silence surrounding it is itself an injustice. It calls for voices to be heard and actions to be taken. To truly safeguard and advance the rights of victims and survivors of domestic violence, we should not only protect them but also mainstream our voices and actively work to prevent this heinous crime. Provoked encourages us to break the silence, challenge societal norms and collectively strive for a future where every woman is liberated from the chains of abuse and injustice.

Rakshya with other Nepali female scholars in Adelaide.

Reflecting on the biopic, one Australia Awards scholar from Bangladesh (who wished to remain anonymous) said, “Violence against women is not always physical; it becomes mental and psychological if repeated often. Sometimes fear of being abused makes someone react violently, as shown in the movie. The 16 Days of Activism period endeavours to create awareness about the negative consequences of violence against women and stop such violence in any form (physical, mental or psychological) from every sphere of the society.”

During a recent event held in South Australia to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism, I was privileged to engage with several members of the South Australian Government on the topic of gender-based violence.

The South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Chris Picton MP, shared his thoughts with me. He said, “Domestic and family violence is not just a women’s issue; it is also a men’s issue. Men stand in solidarity to say, ‘No domestic and family violence is acceptable’. We all need to stand as a community to absolutely have zero tolerance for domestic violence whatsoever. It is a very simple message about respect. It’s about respecting other people in our community. That message is something all of us can share, but we need to get that message through every individual from the community.”

These sentiments of community support were endorsed by the Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Katrine Hildyard MP. She said that violence against women is something that “everybody, every single person needs to think about” and that everyone needs “to speak up and they need to act”, emphasising that “they need to do that well beyond the 16 Days”. She highlighted the need to call out disrespect when we see it, “even if it’s uncomfortable”, no matter who it is, “because one person, one government and a sector can’t do this alone”. In summary, she said, “It will take all of us speaking up and acting until violence against women is a thing of the past.”

Rakshya with Katrine Hildyard MP at the recent event in South Australia to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism.

The event was a very inspiring opportunity to be involved with and I believe the larger community support will provide positive change in the future, affecting my own role in gender studies in Nepal.