Breakthrough CEO Named One of 50 Global Leaders Helping to Stop Sexual Violence Against Children

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Mallika Dutt honored for campaigns to end violence against women and early marriage in India

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We need to change the culture that enables violence against girls and women all over the world. That means means working together, with boys and men, to transform attitudes and actions — and make dignity, equality, respect the norm for all.

Mallika Dutt, president, founder and CEO of global human rights group Breakthrough, has been named one of the top 50 global leaders helping to stop sexual violence against children by Safe. Safe is a new digital magazine produced by Together for Girls, a global public-private partnership dedicated to ending violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls.

Safe magazine acknowledged Dutt “as a leading innovator in human rights, multimedia, and culture change,” citing her organization’s “Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell),” a multimedia and community education campaign initiated in India and now worldwide that calls upon on men and boys to prevent domestic violence.

“We need to change the culture that enables violence against girls and women all over the world. That means working together, with boys and men, to transform attitudes and actions — and make dignity, equality, and respect the norm for all,” said Dutt. “Together we can trigger the global tipping point that will make violence against women and girls unacceptable and build a world where all of us can thrive.”

Dutt’s honor follows Breakthrough’s release of groundbreaking research in India, where 47 percent of women are married by age 18 with little or no say in the matter. The report shares research gathered over two years in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, which have among the highest incidence of early marriage in India, and offers new insights into the underlying motivators among communities, as well as possible entry points for lasting change.

Across the globe, the practice of early marriage — defined for girls as marriage before the legal age of 18 — is prevalent and ongoing and represents an early start to a life of human rights abuses for girls and women. Breakthrough has been at the forefront of engaging men to create lasting culture change in the effort to end violence against women.

While the economic and cultural drivers of early marriage are well-documented, Breakthrough’s study revealed an additional important motivator: early marriage, and the norms and beliefs that drive it, are deeply rooted in fears surrounding girls’ sexuality. In particular, fathers marry off daughters because they believe they’re keeping them safe from premarital sex and pregnancy, sexual harassment and assault, or even forbidden platonic intermingling between the sexes, which can bring “shame” and “dishonor” to a girls’ family. But early marriage is anything but safe, as girls married early are often cut off from educational opportunities and often suffer psychological trauma, domestic violence, high rates of mortality due to premature and continuous childbearing, and high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

These findings helped Dutt and Breakthrough create an awareness and action campaign, “Nation Against Early Marriage,” which positions men and young men – especially fathers and fathers-to-be — as part of the solution.

An innovative and effective leader, Dutt has reinvented the delivery of social and behavioral change through a potent mix of multimedia campaigns, cutting-edge pop culture, smart social media and authentic on-the-ground community engagement. Breakthrough’s unique formula has earned accolades in the global human rights community, the media and entertainment industry, and the technology community.

Others named among the top 50 leaders by Safe include Michelle Bachelet, Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Nicholas Kristof, and her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan.

“Sexual violence thrives behind the twin veils of silence and darkness,” said Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of Safe magazine. “We must acknowledge that sexual violence happens daily, all around us and be willing to talk plainly about it. By illuminating the truth—that one in three women and one in six men suffer from sexual violence — Safe will hopefully amplify the global conversation we must have together to end the horror.”

“Too many girls are being denied their basic human rights to safety, education, opportunity and dignity because of practices like early marriage,” Dutt said. “Men and boys are partners in preventing this violence. We know that most men are not violent — they’re just silent, and that allows the culture of violence to continue. At Breakthrough, we’re doing all we can to involve boys and men and to help them show others that girls are not risks or burdens, but people with intrinsic worth and rights.”


Breakthrough ( is a global human rights organization that uses the power of arts, media, pop culture, and community mobilization to inspire people to take bold action for dignity, equality, and justice. We work through centers in India and the U.S. to end violence and discrimination against women worldwide and promote human rights for all.

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Erin White
Camino Public Relations
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