The Pune chapter of the I Will Go Out campaign took place on January 21. Men and women gathered around Rani Lakshmibai Udyan, Camp area of Pune to raise their voices against sexual harassment of women and to fight for their rights to be seen and heard in public spaces. This was part of a national campaign which took place in other cities as well. These included New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Jaipur and Lucknow.
This movement was started by a group of students named night in my shining armor as a response to the Bangalore Mass molestation incident, which took place on New years’ eve. The protesters reached the location around 4:30pm to organize the entire march. A short briefing was given to all the volunteers. They were told to report to their fellow volunteers incase they face any instance of harassment during the march. They were also made aware that two doctors would be accompanying them and to approach them if any medical emergency arises. By 5pm everybody was ready to hit the road and assert their right of freedom. Before the march began the volunteers were interviewed by the media. Questions such as why is the march being organised? What are your demands? Were asked. Following this the march commenced.
The coordination team of the campaign was designated to look after different areas. According to the instruction given at the beginning of the campaign the team had to handle three things. The communication with the police would be handled by Shankar, Anandita and Sahil. The microphone needed for sloganeering would be looked after by Anandita and 8-10 volunteers would manage the crowd.
The people marched from Rani Laxmibai Udyan to MG Road and finally halted at the Dinshaw’s optical. The protesters and volunteers walked in rows of three, holding banners and screaming slogans. You could here them raising their voices and screaming slogans such as I ‘Will Go Out’, ‘Azzaadi Azzaadi’ and ‘a no always means a no’. The crowd was not only restricted to Indians and many foreigners took part in it too. The message was loud and clear to the bystanders, that women are demanding their right in public spaces. The march was led by two or three volunteers whose voices were heard by everyone through the microphone.
The last stop was the Dinshaw’s optical. People gathered hear to share their stories of sexual harassment. Songs were also sung to make this campaign even more emotional. At the end a petition was signed by all those present. Some of the demand were as follows. To ensure gender sensitization takes place in institutions, organisations, and court of law. Ensure inclusive and safe infrastructure that will make women’s access to public spaces easier. For instance, 24-hour public toilet and well lit streets.
The rally was attended by people belonging to all walks of life. We could see journalists, transgenders, social activists as well as students. According to well known freelance journalist, Jayshree Bakshi, “Women want their freedom in every space. Be it education, work space, in their marital life or even going for biking or trekking.” Social activist, Anand Pawar also attended the protest march. He said, “More men need to be a part of campaigns like these, not as protectors but as allies.”
Even though the the December 2012 gangrape case in New Delhi led to the passing of tougher laws in India, the Bengaluru incident shows that violence still persists despite these laws. Campaigns like these are important to raise awareness and give strength to the women to fight for their rights.