India leads day of 'One Billion Rising' for women

Indians were at the forefront of global protests on Thursday in the One Billion Rising campaign for women's rights, galvanised by the recent fatal gang rape that shocked the country.

Flashmobs, marches, singing and dances were planned in about 200 countries as part of the campaign's day of action, timed to coincide with Valentine's Day and aiming to bring an end to violence against women.

In New Delhi, the site of angry protests just weeks ago after the brutal rape of a student on a bus, campaigners said they would use the day to keep pressure on the government to introduce new measures to protect women.

"Our programmes have started in colleges and I am going with women taxi drivers to spread the word of equality because today is the day of love," Kamla Bhasin, leading the campaign in South Asia, told AFP.

Along with protests and candle-lit marches, India's plans included a noisy "open drum circle" at sunset by the sea in Mumbai and a "ceremonial burial" of patriarchy and misogyny in Gurgaon city, near the capital.

Sydney, Singapore and Manila were among the cities to kickstart the day of action by One Billion Rising, founded by American playwright and leading feminist Eve Ensler, best known for her play "The Vagina Monologues".

The campaign is calling on one billion people to rise against violence and take a stand for the one billion women -- one in three in the world -- who will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes.

Among those supporting this year's campaign was Anoushka Shankar, daughter of legendary Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, who said in a video released Thursday that she had been sexually abused as a child by a family friend.

The US-born musician dedicated her message to the victim of the Delhi rape on December 16 by six drunken men, who later died in hospital from horrific injuries.

"Enough is enough. I am rising," she said. "I am rising with the women of my country."

As scores of flashmobs took place on beaches and city squares across Australia, Minister for the Status of Women Julie Collins told parliament it was "a sad fact that every day millions of women are subjected to violence and physical abuse".

"Violence against women has no geographical financial or cultural boundaries; it is, regrettably, happening everywhere, every day," she said.

In Singapore, dozens of activists with black balloons taped to their shoulders weaved through a jam-packed foyer of a busy mall to draw attention of the passing shoppers.

At the blow of a whistle, the participants dramatically covered their mouths and froze. After a minute, they shouted in unison: "Shout! Sexual harassment out!" and then released the balloons.

The demonstration was welcomed by Lim Shu Li, 28, who took part after her own experience of sexual harassment.

"It was an uncomfortable situation but I didn't dare to speak up about it at that time. So I thought this was a great message," she told AFP.

In the Philippines, the day began with celebrity-led flashmob dances in a crowded Manila park and will be capped by a concert of local artists, with events from bazaars to dance shows at 25 sites throughout the day.

Rallies were also held in New Zealand's capital Wellington and at Auckland's Bastion Point, where a Maori elder led prayers before about 100 women and and children danced by the waterfront.

"We danced and sang and talked about cherishing women and loving our children," organiser Helen Te Hira said.

"There was a real sense you were part of a world-wide movement that was taking a stand against violence."

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