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Bystander interventions key to safer public spaces

To commemorate International Women’s Day, Uber brought its global “Driving Change” campaign to India and announced a partnership with Breakthrough.

IANS | New Delhi |

Bystander interventions can be a powerful tool to prevent gender-based violence in public spaces, according to Breakthrough, a non-profit organisation working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable.

To commemorate International Women’s Day, Uber brought its global “Driving Change” campaign to India and announced a partnership with Breakthrough.

As part of the collaboration, Breakthrough launched a campaign, #IgnoreNoMore, which encourages bystander intervention and supports collective action to end gender-based violence in public spaces.

“You’re traveling in a public bus or standing at the bus stop, if you see an incidence of violence happening in front of you, please intervene. It’s your right to intervene. Don’t be held back by thinking that I can’t intervene, you can and you should,” Sohini Bhattacharya, President, and CEO, Breakthrough, told IANS.

“This is our message we’re trying to send out on International Women’s Day this time. In 2020, we cannot hear any more incidents of people just standing around watching violence against women in public spaces. There is a role that people can play by intervening,” Bhattacharya said.

The campaign, spanning a period of 10 months from March 2020 to December 2020 in phase 1 will focus on creating conversations around the role of bystanders and inspiring collective action to address gender-based violence in public spaces.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau report of 2018 (NCRB), which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, nearly 3.78 lakh cases of crime against women were reported across the country.

“We don’t want International Women’s Day to be about discount coupons or about so-called privileges been given to women. We are asking people to actually change the approach towards women,” she added.

According to Bhattacharya, a key reason why women and girls continue to face violence in public spaces is the inaction and apathy on the part of the general public or bystanders who refuse to intervene in such situations.

“Inaction and apathy are detrimental to the idea of safe public spaces and can promote a culture of violence against the vulnerable sections of society, particularly women and girls,” Bhattacharya explained.

When asked how bystander intervention can play a crucial role in tackling crime against women in both public and private spaces, Bhattacharya said: “Bystander intervention is largely a violence prevention strategy developed keeping in mind that violent or potentially violent or threatening or even uncomfortable situations often occur in the presence of others.”

“Bystander intervention is a relatively new concept in India and it will surely work here. If something is happening in a broad daylight, there are at least 1,000 people witnessing this. So if that mass of people gets ready to say ‘no’ this is not acceptable, think of the ripple effect of that. It will definitely bring change,” she stressed.

Speaking on collaboration between Uber and Breakthrough, Pavan Vaish, Head of Central Operations, India, Uber said: “We’re committing major funding for awareness and prevention programmes with members of courageous, thought-leading organisations like Breakthrough and we will continue to seek advice from them on how we can do more to prevent violence and to help keep women safe.”