8 Indian Non-Profits Join To Launch ‘Her Voice’ Campaign To End Violence Against Women


Not too long ago we had the honor of interviewing ‘India’s Daughter’ filmmaker Leslee Udwin whose powerful documentary examines the ingrained culture of misogyny still prevalent in India today, which has come under fire more than ever after the 2012 gang rape of a young woman in Delhi on a bus hit international headlines. Leslee’s film puts the spotlight on that incident, the subsequent protests that erupted across India for an entire month after, the increased amount of gender violence reports being made by women and girls, and the rapists involved in the Delhi gang rape.

The most shocking aspect about the film was how the poorly educated rapists and their highly educated lawyers are both adamant that if a woman is raped, it is her fault. It should be noted that in India, the constitution has equal rights measures that even the US does not have, yet the misogynistic mindset that women are not equal to men and therefore deserve whatever punishment comes to them for daring to go out in public by themselves has not diminished.

The film, which actor Sean Penn described as an MRI for our society at a Los Angeles screening, has been banned in India by the government because they fear it could incite more riots, but more than anything they don’t want India to look bad to the rest of the world. In our interview with Leslie, she authoritatively condemns Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has the guts to claim he wants to champion female empowerment across the country, yet does nothing to lift the ban on this movie which could essentially help men in India be exposed to the deeper issue surrounding gender violence.

It is frustrating to say the least. Leslee has continued to raise her voice against this ban and even protested outside an event in London recently where Prime Minister Modi was present. What will it take for government leaders in India to listen to the voice of women desperately crying out to be heard on this issue? The news reports continue to be shared and each is more shocking than the other. In September, two young women were sentenced to be gang-raped as a punishment for their brother’s “crime” of eloping. The girls themselves have done nothing wrong, but an all-male council ruled this was somehow an appropriate response. This is the type of sickening violence against women we keep hearing about in India.


But it should not be shocking, as statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau of India say one woman is raped every 34 minutes. In response to these horrendous and violent acts, a coalition of 8 Indian NGOs have launched an important campaign called Her Voice in order to force the Indian government to strengthen anti-rape laws and help end violence against women and girls. Each of the NGOs involved deliver preventative and protection projects to women in communities across India and are also often the first and only emergency services for women facing violence in India.

As part of the campaign, Her Voice organizers have launched a Change.org petition which is already being supported by human rights lawyers, ministers and renowned social activists.

One of the specific aspects of the campaign is to make the government get rid of Khap Courts. These are locally organized clans who create assemblies and councils which are not affiliated with the formally elected government bodies, but can exert significant social influence within the community they represent. It was a Khap Court which sentenced the two aforementioned girls to be gang raped. The very existence of Khap Courts shows the gaping flaws in the Indian government which makes it harder for violence against women to be tackled effectively.

“The Supreme Court in India has already outlawed Khap Courts and currently has some of the toughest anti-rape laws in the world, but there is little in place to enforce the law and organizations like mine can no longer be left to simply pick up the pieces,” writes Miranda Hudson a representative of Her Voice on the Change.org petition page.


She goes on to say that this is not just an Indian problem, but a global one, and it is something we all need to collectively work to dismantle.

“In October, two toddlers were gang raped in New Delhi. That same week, Girish Kulkarni, founder of NGO Snehalaya India, one of the #HerVoice campaign partners, told me: ‘A nine-year-old girl was gang raped and killed in West Singbhum in Zarkhand. An eight-year-old girl was raped by her maternal uncle in Saharanpur, Utter Pradesh. Six people also gang raped a 20-year-old woman in Gudgoan near New Delhi. In my Ahmednagar district, there have been four such incidents registered in last 15 days. If we think of the 600 district in 29 states in India, the picture and scale of the violence affecting women and children in India is horrifying’,” she writes.

Her Voice is looking to get the attention of Maneka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Children, and Rajnath Singh, the Minister of Home Affairs. So far the petition has over 15,000 signatures and is looking to gain a total of 25,000.

Part of the problem is that men and boy are not taught women are equal in society, and generation after generation continues this pattern unless major social reform happens, starting with the government cracking down on the evil Khap Courts that still exert power in certain rural areas.

“The politicians and institutions of society are corrupt, which leads to the emergence of criminal elements in society. It is only pressure groups, like #HerVoice, that can fix this. I’ve seen every woman for my whole life as my mother or my sister. This is what should be taught to all men to end violence against women. We need this lens to enact change,” said Anna Hazare, a prominent social activist and supporter of the campaign to The Independent.


For others, it is the willingness to confront the stark reality of gender violence because saving the life of women and girls is more important that saving face to the rest of the world.

“Nobody wants to hear her and nobody wants to be confronted with the facts. It’s an uncomfortable truth. Marital rape, for example. They believe there is nothing to claim about that. Men are supposed to do that to women. They are supposed to do this to children. A lot of people here don’t even know that it is wrong,” said Priti Paktar, leading activist and the founder of anti-sex trafficking initiative Prerana.

There also needs to be a strong anti-violence male voice being part of the conversation, in order to teach other men how they can prevent this from happening.

“There are two reasons why men rape. One is that they pursue women like they are objects, like they are a dish to savor. They are trying to make a bold statement about power dynamics. It is not necessarily that the girl they are pursuing is more beautiful. It is to say that they are more powerful than a woman. And to tell the rest of society about that power,” said Pankaj Deshmukh, Superintendent of the Police in the state of Maharashtra, who added that in order to change rape culture, men who perpetrate these acts need to fundamentally understand THEY are to blame, not the woman.


The campaign will run for 5 weeks in total, and anyone can donate to the 8 NGOs involved by clicking here.

This is more than just a campaign to end gender violence in India. It is an attempt to systemically reform a society that is in desperate need of a change in perspective toward women and girls. The idea is that reforming mindsets will have a wider effect on communities, so that when laws are created and implemented (as the existing equality measures and tough legislation toward violence has already shown) they will merely be an extension of how societies feel toward violence and can actually be effective.

“In India, survivors [of attacks] are often cast out by their families, shamed by their communities, disbelieved by police and blackmailed by their attackers.Without raising awareness about the sheer numbers of violent attacks [the NGOs] are dealing with on a weekly basis, and calling on the government to ensure that anti-rape laws are being absolutely upheld at local level, India is sentencing millions of women to a lifetime of fear and oppression.We owe it to the women of India, as fellow human beings, to stand in solidarity with them now,” said Jenn Selby, a Her Voice campaigner, to Cosmopolitan Magazine UK.

“We want to accelerate, but keep sustainable, the momentum for change so that we can give back India #HerVoice,” said Miranda Hudson, CEO of Snehalaya UK, one of the NGO partners for Her Voice.

We believe this campaign is yet another rung on the ladder, which represents a powerful gender equality movement happening in India. If you want to take part or find out more info on Her Voice, click here.


One thought on “8 Indian Non-Profits Join To Launch ‘Her Voice’ Campaign To End Violence Against Women

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.