Star TV’s Aamir Khan Tackles Women’s Rights in India

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – India has the world's largest democracy and is a fast-growing, powerful economy. Yet of all the rich G20 nations, India was labelled in 2012 as the worst place to be a woman. How is this possible in a country that prides itself on being the world's largest democracy? Not allowing these social issues surrounding women to slip off the news agenda is STAR India’s social awareness series Satyamev Jayate, which coincidentally also launched in 2012. It has become a key platform where Indians can discuss their society's most pressing challenges.

The series features Bollywood star Aamir Khan in conversation with victims, activists and experts, as they explore subjects like the caste system, alcoholism, and political corruption. At the recent sixth annual Women in the World Summit in New York City this April, Khan spoke about how the show has addressed women's rights over the course of its three-season run. He was speaking in conversation with Zainab Salbi, founder of the charity Women for Women International and explained that women's issues have been a part of Satyamev Jayate since the very first episode, which addressed the subject of female feticide. This particular episode, streamed digitally and broadcast on multiple STAR channels in six local languages, was watched by roughly 50 million people.

As the show has gone on, it has continued to consistently address challenges facing women and girls, from domestic violence to the dowry system to sexual violence and rape. In its most recent season, which aired on STAR in the fall of 2014, one episode framed violence against women as not just a women's issue, but as a men's issue, too.

Khan has used his influence to help bring positive change and said at this Summit, "Unless we redefine what it is to be a man, things aren't going to change. You cannot raise a boy telling him not to cry. You are in effect distancing him from emotion and then you are surprised when he grows up and beats his wife." Khan’s talk gave the actor a chance to reflect on the success of the show, which has garnered an audience of an estimated 517 million viewers and raised more than $45 million for its partners who are non-governmental organisations.

No one would have imagined that a show that speaks out against such weighty social topics would be so popular here and reflects that Indians do want change. Yet most Indians know full well how tough life as a woman can be in the world's biggest democracy. A country that has had a woman president, a woman prime minister, yet in 2012, one of the greatest tragedies hit this country with the rape and murder of a young woman travelling on a Delhi bus. In India, girls can be married off as young as 10 or burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes. It is a country that worships female goddesses, yet fails to protect women and young girls from these crimes and then blames them, too.

Photo Credit: Justmeans/Satyamev Jayate