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Bollywood Actors Stand Up Against Violence

A number of India's Bollywood actors are taking a stand against sexual violence -- and have been since long before a string of devastating, yet consciousness-raising events such as the brutal gang rape, beating and eventual murder of a 23 year old woman in New Delhi this past December or the more recent, rape of a six-year-old girl in the slums of South Delhi, both of which have sparked waves of unprecedented protests.

For instance, Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan, Rahul Bose and Boman Irani have actively endorsed the "Bell Bajao" or "Ring the Bell" Campaign -- a multi-media campaign launched by human-rights powerhouse Breakthrough, showing a number of scenes of overheard domestic violence. Eventually, a young man intervenes by "ringing the bell," thus causing a distraction and showing his disapproval.

While raising awareness is an important first step, this kind of bystander intervention -- creating an "interruption" and voicing or displaying disapproval of the behavior is critical to taking the next step. Through advocating responding to violence with an interruption and a disapproving eye -- rather than turning the other way, as is all too common in many parts of the world, including the West -- these actors and advocates are normalizing disapproval and intervention as means that citizens can combat domestic violence.

Another Bollywood actor and director, Farhan Akhtar became involved in the campaign MARD -- "Men Against Rape and Discrimination" -- after a female colleague and friend of his was raped and murdered. As part of the campaign, he is reaching out to youth over social media, promoting the idea that masculinity and male honor should be about protecting the rights of women.

The mustache -- traditionally thought of as the symbol of masculinity in India -- has been reclaimed in this campaign as a symbol to uphold masculinity through the prevention of violence against women.

Most recently, Bollywood heartthrob John Abraham has jumped on to personally endorse our efforts in Circle of 6, stating on his Facebook page, "Violence against women and girls is everyone's problem, join me in downloading Circle of 6."

Now, thanks partially to these male celebrities, and their influence and reach through both social media and celebrity, Circle of 6 downloads in India have increased by more than 1,000 percent--coming second only to the United States in the most downloads in the world. Following this extreme success, Circle of 6 has adapted and launched in Hindi -- specifically for use in New Delhi.

As we celebrate the support and endorsement from Bollywood actors to stop domestic violence and promote women's rights, however, we can't help but wonder where that same support is in the U.S. and the Western World. How would it look different if more male athletes and movie stars -- particularly those widely admired by young men -- came out to publicly support women, not only through words but also through bystander intervention? It is time to extend our demands beyond simply talk, and into action and intervention.