Filmmaker: Ashok Prasad
Ending the Violence follows the stories of three extraordinary people who are fighting to eliminate the threat of violence many South Asian women face in their own homes every day.
The existence of domestic violence in homes across South Asia is not new. Acid attacks, dowry demands and honour killings are all common cultural practices throughout the region.
What is shocking is the number of women affected. Studies indicate that one out of every two women across South Asia is battered by their husband. Now, a major new campaign has began to bring the horrors of domestic violence out into the open – and to make it socially unacceptable.
Beauty Ara is a counselor who has the unenviable job of reprimanding men who hit their wives. “When I counsel people and I see them when they are angry and arguing, they swear at me very badly,” says Ara, “And they say it’s a private matter – they say ‘Don’t interfere! This is our business’.”
Violence does not just happen behind closed doors. In the tribal area of Jharkand in east India, where belief in witchcraft is still widespread, Poonam Toppo lived under constant threat of torment and even death by her neighbours who called her family witches.
Her family tolerated it. “They said leave it because we are weak,” says Poonam , “but I always felt it was wrong and that I must protest.”
Today Poonam works with the Oxfam charity and regularly takes volunteers out to tribal areas to present a play based on her own traumatic childhood.
The audience is entranced – particularly the men, who are not accustomed to fellow Indians telling them what is socially unacceptable in their own homes. This was the experience of Mohammad Obaidur Rahman who became so remorseful for beating his wife that he decided to join the campaign to stop domestic violence.
“When I think about it now I feel embarrassed. I think what did I do? What did I do? I feel bad about it, embarrassed and ashamed,” he says.
Domestic abuse is not likely to be a problem that will go away anytime soon in South Asia. But campaign workers are determined to tackle it. “If we follow what the campaign says, families will be happy,” says Mohammad. “If our family is at peace then we will also be at peace. And if our neighbours are at peace we are also at peace. That’s why this work needs to be done.”