Story from the Ground: “Some Men’s Attitudes Have Changed”

SoME Gavobevis 2023

2 November 2010

Beena Sebastian is the Founder of the Cultural Academy for Peace in Kerala, India. As she enters the floor she greets the conference with all the cosmic energy from India.

Beena Sebastian is the Founder of the Cultural Academy for Peace in Kerala, India. As she enters the floor she greets the conference with all the cosmic energy from India.

“Even though I’m glad to be here my heart is paining and bleeding,” she says.

Beena Sebastian of the Cultural Academy for Peace in Kerala, India talks about improvements in attitudes toward women after she initiated a peace price for gender sensitive police officers.

Photo: Anna Erlandson

So many women and children are victims of violence in India and around the world. That is what makes Beena Sebastian’s heart ache.

“Children are also born with the smell of blood and the sound of bombs close to them every day,” she says.

Police Search Ended up in Murder

One aspect of Beena Sebastian’s work deals with training youth. For instance, young citizens in Kashmir learn about justice and peacebuilding processes. She tells the story about when the police were looking for Muslim terrorists. The policemen went from house to house searching. Unfortunately, in one house two girls were alone without any chance of protecting themselves when the police inspected their home. Both girls were raped and murdered.

An investigation was made and a 400-page report was written. Still the commission for investigation claims there is no proof of assault. Now there is a need for further investigation. The case was delayed and nobody seemed to care, even though the case was clear: the women were raped and killed by the policemen.

“Under this whole process no women were involved even though there are women both in the police and the government in India. But they are too few to get noticed and to make a difference. Some influencial men even say: Some women are trying to spoil our cultural identity.”

Peace Prize for Gender Sensitivity

Today some things have changed for the better. Gender sensitive programs are in place. The police also participate in non-violence and non-conflict training. Even posters are made to make people think and understand, like the one saying: “Say no to Violence against Women”.

“We also believe that we have managed to change some men’s attitudes by initiating a certain peace prize for a person who has initiated the most gender sensitive training program. Because of this, one police officer in a leading position is now sitting on our board. He has developed gender consciousness through his work and is not our ´enemy’ any longer.”

Civil Society Needs to Act

Beena Sebastian is optimistic about the future. She believes a gender policy is within reach, both for the nation and for the churches. She also talks about making bridges between the grassroots and the policymakers. She underlines that she doesn’t want a special ministry for peace and justice; these issues should be discussed in all departments.

“If we do not take the initiative, we will be swept under the carpet,” Beena Sebastian says.

Peter Letowski

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