by Karen Castellon, AWC Berlin member
One evening, while travelling on a business trip, I happened to be browsing the internet and saw in my local hometown news that a woman had been strangled to death by her husband during a dispute over their impending divorce. The police, called by the couple’s only child, arrived to arrest the husband and revive the woman who later died at the hospital. Mother is dead, father is in jail for the next 55 years, and an innocent teenager is left behind. This was an act of Gender-Based Violence and it had happened right down the street from my family!
UN Women Violence against Women Facts & Figures: It is estimated that 35 per cent of women (1 in 3 women) worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
My now-deceased neighbor, Janaki Dantuluru, 43, was Indian by birth. Her daughter, Nitya Kalidindi, now 19, was a classmate of my son’s and American-born. They were our neighbors. We went trick-or-treating at their home, we played in color wars for the Hindu celebration of Holi, and lit candles on Diwali. Our neighborhood was a planned community of single family homes occupied by many first-generation American families who were well-educated with good jobs in the local economy in such varied fields as pharmaceuticals, insurance and telecommunications. GBV knows no boundaries and no ethnicity, society, class, race, or religion is immune to it. GBV does not care about these demographics; it cuts across all of them.
Following this tragedy, the non-profit group Manavi organized a candle-light vigil to honor and remember Ms. Dantuluru and to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence in the local community. The victim’s parents came over from India to be with their grandchild, participated in the vigil, and prayers were shared. Manavi, which means “primal woman” in Sanskrit, is a an organization based in New Jersey, USA, for South Asian women, many of whom are newly arrived immigrants vulnerable to violence due to their cultural socialization and status. Manavi says “the loss of traditional family support, lack of proficiency in English, as well as unfamiliarity with the laws and services of their adopted country keep many South Asian women captive in their abusive situations. Manavi’s objective is to reach out to these women and provide information and support during their crises.”
Manavi’s legal advocacy program, Sumantrana (meaning ‘good advice’ in Sanskrit), provides legal services to South Asian women who are battered and sexually abused. In a culturally and linguistically sensitive surrounding, South Asian women, traditionally socialized against taking legal recourse, are encouraged and supported to seek legal justice.
In addition to individual support, Manavi focuses on education to “shift community norms to render violence against women unacceptable and enhance support for victims as well as accountability of the perpetrators of violence. Another one of Manavi’s goals is to increase cultural competency of mainstream practitioners, institutions, and organizations in the U.S., so that they may serve the South Asian community more effectively. Manavi’s ultimate objective is make sure that women of South Asian descent can exercise their fundamental right to live a life of safety and dignity.”
DAY 5 – CALL TO ACTION:
- Share this post
2. Learn more about groups that help victims of domestic violence, like Manavi
3. Get involved with organizations that combat sexual victimization of women
The AWC Berlin participates in the 16-Day-Campaign against Gender-Based-Violence. Each day, we highlight an aspect of GBV to raise awareness and call on our membership to take one small action to fight against violence against women.