India: Court of Women on Dowry and Related Forms of VAW

WLUML Networkers
Dowry deaths or sex selection resulting in the termination of female fetuses, are but two most extreme manifestations of the phenomena of violence against women that is taking new and more contemporary forms.
Through the voices of women who will share their testimonies of pain and resistance and also women and men who will offer their analyses and wisdoms, the India Court of Women on Dowry and other Related Forms of Violence against Women (July 27-29, 2009, Bangalore, India) will attempt to recover this lost language of justice.
specifically this Court will seek to:

- bring back to the centre of public consciousness and conscience the phenomena of dowry violence that has become invisible, normal and routine
- initiate a rethink on our analyses of what constitutes dowry in the present context and understand its links not only to other forms of violence against women but also to the larger culture of violence and marginalisation inherent in the contemporary processes of development and globalisation.
- reflect on and review the methodologies of redress including the law and
- revision a mass movement that is multi layered thereby taking deeper root in people’s collective consciousness and in public polity.

Processes towards the Court

A process as much as an event, this Court since January 2008 has begun to gather together the experience, knowledges and analyses on the changing face of dowry and related forms of violence against women from different parts of the state and country. This is being done through several state level events including smaller public hearings, workshops and roundtable discussions as also storytelling, theatre performances, songs, film festivals, and other forms of creative and reflective interactions among different rural and urban communities.

The Event

All these regional processes will feed into the actual event of the Court to be held from July 27 -29, 2009.

July 27: Pre Court Events

Roundtable Discussions

The day before the Court a series of roundtable discussions will be initiated by a range of resource people from across the country and sub continent. They will look at some of the cutting edge issues that are defining the core concerns of the court, thus creating a context within which we can locate the text of the testimonies that will be received on the following day.

Women in Black

An action of women and men dressed in black and standing in a public place in the city on the evening before the Court and focusing on the issues of the Court through placards, banners, pamphlets and lamps.

July 28, 2009: Daughters of Fire: India Court of Women on Dowry and Related Forms of Violence against Women

The Court of Women: Receiving the Testimonies

The Court, through a jury comprising of about six to eight wise women and men drawn from the different fields of activism, academia, art and justice and also an audience drawn from an equally wide cross section of civil society including policy makers from the state and country, will receive testimonies of survival and resistance and also listen to the analyses and creative reflections on the roots and nature of this violence.

July 29, 2009: Follow Up

Community Conversations

The community of testifiers along with the supporting organisations and the core group members will reflect together on the processes and outcomes of the Court towards planning a national level campaign as a follow up to the Court.

Consultation on Policies and Legal Reform

During this consultation, policy makers and civil society representatives will attempt to revisit policy and legal reform based on the experiential and analytical learnings of the Court.

The Journey and Methodology of the Courts of Women

This Court is part of the process of the Courts of Women, a global movement that seeks to relook at rights and other notions of justice from the lives and life visions of women – particularly from the Global South. Initiated by the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council in 1991 in the Asia Pacific region the Courts of Women have subsequently moved through El Taller International into different regions of the world i.e. the Arab world, the Mediterranean, Africa, Central and South America. With violence against women at its centre, 35 Courts of Women have been held on diverse issues specific to the regions they have been held in : from the violence of poverty, globalisation and development, the violence of cultures, caste and racism to the violence of military sexual slavery, nuclearisation and of all wars.

The unique feminist methodology evolved by the Courts of Women revolves around weaving together the personal, the political, the affective and the aesthetic. It seeks to invite the audience to relook at these issues not as experts but as witnesses to the violence of our times. The Courts of Women are public hearings. They are sacred spaces in which we hear individual testimonies of survival and resistance that guide us in our search for new paradigms of knowledge that challenges the one, scientific, neutral, objective, universal knowing as the only way to know.