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Climb Against Sexual Abuse: Rape survivors bring campaign to India in Mysuru

In Mysuru, activists hiked up Chamundi Hills as a part of the first ‘Climb Against Sexual Abuse’ campaign in India. Rape survivors across 17 countries are using mountains as a metaphor to inspire others to overcome the odds and speak out.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2016 11:24 IST
Yusuf Omar
Activists going up Chamundi Hills in Mysuru hold up a poster during the first ‘Climb Against Sexual Abuse’ campaign in India. Rape survivors across 17 countries are using mountains as a metaphor to inspire others to overcome the odds and speak out.
Activists going up Chamundi Hills in Mysuru hold up a poster during the first ‘Climb Against Sexual Abuse’ campaign in India. Rape survivors across 17 countries are using mountains as a metaphor to inspire others to overcome the odds and speak out.(Photos by Flashbulbzz Photography)

Carrying dark pasts and bright posters, 50 young people stood in the shadows of Chamundi Hills in Mysuru on Saturday morning.

‘Yoga stops trafficking,’ read one placard, and another said, ‘Real men respect women’.

This was India’s first ‘Climb Against Sexual Abuse’.

In 17 countries, rape survivors are using mountains as a metaphor to overcome mental and physical hurdles. Inspiring others to do the same, it starts with speaking out.

“Climb is also a journey that we as a society need to take, to undo the taboo and stigma that exists around sexual violence,” explained Climb co-founder Poonam Thimmaiah.

An activist wears a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Yoga stops trafficking’ during the first Climb Against Sexual Abuse event. The campaign hopes to open up the issue of sexual violence for public discussion, remove the stigma associated with it and create a healthy dialogue that raises awareness.

By pushing the sexual violence conversation into public spaces, the organisation hopes “survivors will be more confident to come out and report sexual violence”.

Taking their first steps up Chamundi Hill, some survivors rang the temple bell at the base, but most weren’t tall enough. They were young boys and girls who were abducted, raped or sold as sex workers, sometimes by their own family members

“Chamundi is another name for power,” explained K Stanley, co-founder of Odanadi Seva Samsthe. “Walking this hill symbolises them regaining their strength.” His organisation claims to have rescued 5,000 children in the past 27 years, educating and providing skills to survivors who are often left alienated from their families.

Activists lead the way up Chamundi Hills during India’s first ‘Climb Against Sexual Abuse’ campaign on June 25, 2016, in Mysuru.

“In north India, like Delhi, it’s brothels, but in the south the sex trafficking is more hidden,” he explained. Rescuers and authorities rely on tip-offs, but speaking out is often the hardest part. Climb Against Sexual Abuse is one way activists hope to create a comfortable, encouraging space for these stories to come out.

On the summit, survivors fell the thrill of an achievement and took selfies with their coconut water drinks. They looked like teenagers, and that was the point – mingling and reintegrating. But in a quiet corner behind Chamundeshwari Temple, a few young girls shared their story. They were kidnapped, raped for days, and tortured. “I was 14,” explained one. “It was my uncle,” said another.

Watch | Hear more about their stories on HT’s Facebook page

Climb activists and rape survivors from every continent plan to summit Africa’s highest summit, Kilimanjaro, in December. The ultimate aim is to conquer Everest base camp in 2017.