Vimochana, in collaboration with Centre for Social Action conducted a three day (27.07.09 to 29.07.09) programme- Daughters of Fire, in Christ University, Bangalore. The major highlight of the event was ‘the court of women’ .The process towards the conduction of this ‘court of women’ started in January 2008, gathering together the experiences, knowledge and analyses on the changing face of dowry and related forms of violence against women from different parts of the state and country. This was done through small public hearings, workshops (theatre, film festivals,etc) and round table discussions and other interactive sessions between the rural and urban communities.
On July 27th, a series of round table discussions were conducted by resource people from across the country. Media representation of violence against women, globalization and violence against women were a few among the many topics discussed in relation to dowry and violence against women. This was open to students and other invited guests.
The main event, on July 28th, was the Court of Women. The court, with a jury comprising of six women and men, drawn from the different fields of social activism, academia, justice and art and an audience of about 2000 commoners, listened to testimonies of survival and resistance against violence. Analyses and reflections on the roots and nature of such violence was conducted. The different themes covered during the progress of the court were – the violence of dowry murders, the changing forms of dowry violence, dowry in the context of globalization, dowry in the context of changing traditions and voices of resistance.
The last session included the responses of the jury members – Kamla Bhasin (poet, women’s activist, Sangat, New Delhi), Vandana Shiva (Environmental scholar, activist, Navadanya, Dehradun), Veena Talwar Oldenburg(Activist, Professor of History, City University of New York, USA), Shiv Vishwanathan (Social Scientist, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology,Ahmedabad), Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer (Former Justice, Supreme Court of India) and Mallika Sarabhai (Artist, activist, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad). The concluding speeches given by the jury members sent across very strong messages and questioned the social system of dowry and the gender differences which are still prevalent today.
On July 29th, a follow up session was conducted where the testifiers along with the supporting organizations and the core group members reflected together on the processes and outcomes of the Court towards planning a national level campaign. Policy makers and civil society representatives attempted to revisit policy and legal reforms in the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, based on the testimonies heard in court.
The three day programme came to an end leaving thousands of people who attended it, awakened, insprired and more knowledgeable about the different autrocities surrounding women with respect to dowry and other related forms of violence.