In terms of contagiousness and pure social involvement, the SlutWalk is reminiscent of the cheeky “2009 Pink Chaddi movement”. A provocative yet superbly effective movement inspired by grassroots community organizing that grew rapidly via word-of-mouth and social media activism. Does SlutWalk have the ability to have the same impact?
What was the Pink Chaddi Campaign?
“Pink Chaddi” (“Chaddi” is the Hindi word for “underwear”) campaign was a response to Sri Ram Sena, a right-wing Hindu fundamentalist organization violent attack on a group of women drinking in a pub in Mangalore. In response to the vicious attacks, the Bangalore-based Alternative Law Forum (ALF) started the Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women. It began the Facebook campaign, which asked women to send their panties or chaddis to the leader of the group, Pramod Muthalik on Valentine’s Day. It was a non-violent protest movement to counter the “moral policing” of women and taking a stand for women’s rights. Within one week, the group had grown to over 40,000 members.
The reaction spread like a wildfire and, in no time, more than a million pair of thongs were delivered to their office. Soon afterwards, other Indian and international blogs picked up the story. Mainstream international news organizations were enthralled with the campaign.
What is SlutWalk?
SlutWalk is a huge international women’s movement that was born out of an incredible idiotic comment by a Toronto policeman who suggested women who don’t wish to be raped should avoid dressing like sluts. His comment sparked a protest of 3,000 women in Toronto, Canada to reclaim the word “slut” and speak out against blaming the victims of sexual assault.
Since April, women and men around the world from cities like, London, Melbourne, Brisbane, Montreal, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Hamilton, San Diego and Vancouver have joined the movement to make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and women’s sexuality. As the Toronto site states, SlutWalk has become a mechanism for increased dialogue on victim-blaming, slut-shaming, misogynist and oppressive ideas that need to be challenged.
And now it is coming to New Delhi, the Indian capital. Besharmi Morcha, the Indian version of the SlutWalk protest marches spreading around the world was initially planned for the 25th of June, but has now been postponed to the end of July.
Why is SlutWalk / Besharmi Morcha in Delhi?
Delhi is one of the most unsafe cities in the country reporting at least one rape in every 18 hrs, according to the Huffington Post. Recently Delhi is named as the Rape Capital of India. Since the city lost its image due to its growing number of reported rapes, the organizers feel that this is the right place to kick start the event in India. Similar to its predecessor, Pink Chaddi this is a protest against sexual violence towards women.
The following YouTube demonstrates why many believe that SlutWalk will bring a needed change to the mindsets about women’s status in the Indian society.
Will Besharmi Morcha / SlutWalk Have the Same Impact?
Success will be based on how well they combine the ground campaign with online activism. Social media activism allows you to reach not just your friends, but your friends, friends who just might share the information. With over 25 million Facebook users in India surpassing Orkut as No.1 social network, Besharmi Morcha needs to develop further engagement on their Facebook page, website and be present on Orkut.
The audience is ripe for the picking to have a sustained online campaign for government reform for women’s rights. Based on a report from Comscore, population of users sharing Internet or accessing from Internet café’s is 35 million in India, which is comparable to around 43 million of the people working from home/office. The average Internet usage per person in India is 12.5 hours. Lastly, women send more time on social networking than men. Combined with the personal connection to women and the universal appeal of the message, Besharmi Morcha potentially could stir up the government and people across the country, by using social media as a platform for individuals to share their story, petition the prime minister and speak out against violence toward women.
By leveraging the current buzz, Besharmi Morcha might consider asking supporters to use their Facebook status updates to raise awareness with their very own short personalized message or experience. Or they may want to broaden their audience by connecting with citizen journalists who are producing stories about the plight of women in India. Then retweet the story with the #SlutWlak hashtag. To deepen the level of commitment and engagement the campaign should ask supporters to tweet about it, talk about it and share what’s going on to effectively create social change. And then encourage their friends to do the same.