Monday, December 3, 2018

Day 5: Film Screening and Discussion on Gender Violence

On day five of the 2018 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence, we took the documentary movie on Shahjehan Apa to Stella Maris College for Women. Our intention was to engage the students in a conversation around dowry. The 29th of November which also happens to be the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day was the perfect occasion to recognise Shahjehan Apa's contribution to the anti-dowry laws of India and the women's movement.

Around 30 girls from Stella's Damini Club had signed up for the screening and discussion. Most of these girls were from the sociology and arts department. The 88 minutes long movie is an interaction of the interviewer with Shahjehan Apa in different settings - home, office, community. We learn about Shahjehan Apa's early life, how she witnessed her daughter's death - a dowry death which propelled Shahjehan Apa to step out of her house and fight for the rights of women. The movie also sheds light on Shahjehan Apa's non-profit organisation Shakti Shalini and its work as a shelter home for survivors of domestic violence.

An informal discussion was moderated post the movie. The discussion was started with a fairly simple question of what they thought about the movie. Soon the girls shared their awe of Shahjehan Apa's life story and her achievements, especially coming from a conservative background and fighting for better laws for women across the country. The girls then proceeded to talk about dowry in present times - the contemporary dowry. The girls listed down the manifestations of the present day dowry; in forms of lavish weddings, expensive gifts, passive demands and more. Professor Millie Nihila, too, joined the discussion and added an interesting point, " The bride's family are scared that if the groom's family don't take dowry then they might ill-treat their daughter".

A few girls voiced their feelings about how such lavish weddings and certain customs make them feel as if they are not enough. One of the students mentioned that while she tried to have a discussion about this with her mother, she couldn't broach the subject with her.

The discussion ended with the group acknowledging the need to realise the normalisation of dowry in our current society, and the need to hold these conversations with their family.

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