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In the era of globalisation, there are some stark realities

December 15, 2009

In the era of globalisation, there are some stark realities – Sudipa Chakraborty

When 21-year-old Jigyasa narrated her painful tale of marital woes, pin-drop silence prevailed at the Christ University auditorium hall that was packed with activists, students, academics and lawyers on Tuesday.

Her face contorting in pain as she narrated her agonising story, Jigyasa could not stop her tears.

She was one of the 25 testifiers who brought their private tales of sorrow and humiliation before the six-member Jury of India Court of Women, organised by Vimochana and Asian Women’s Human Rights Council, in partnership with several women’s groups from across the country.

At a time when the entire state machinery consisting of police, judiciary and legislation fail to provide justice to those who are victims of dowry, India Court of Women provided them with a platform where they could voice their concerns and tragedies that gave courage to hundreds of suffering women in the city even when the law of the land has given them little cause to cheer.

As Corinne Kumar from Vimochaana said, “The India Court of Women is aimed at transforming private memories into public knowledge. It is about creating a public hearing of those personal tragedies. It will help create a new space for women with vision.”

There were tales of violence, betrayal and also of resistance and remarkable courage. Safruneesa from Mandya district narrated her horror tale of losing both her daughters in dowry deaths. Both her daughters were burnt alive.

Malathi from Tamil Nadu found her daughter hanging from the ceiling fan after she succumbed to repeated episodes of torture and violence at her in-laws’ place. Though a police complaint was registered and a rigorous imprisonment of seven years was pronounced by the court, the boy’s family managed to procure bail for him within a week. And even with the case pending in the court, the boy re-married within six months.

Cutting across class and caste, the tales of dowry deaths continued over six sessions, but at the end of every session, ‘daughters of fire’ stood with folded hands and prayed, “We want justice. Please help us.”

There were those who resisted inexplicable violence and threats too. Dr Mitu Khurana from Delhi exposed the nexus between the greedy clinics and her inhuman in-laws. She narrated, “They have illegally conducted ultra sound for sex identification of my children and pushed me out of the house for bearing twin-girls in my womb.”

From being kicked to pushed from the second floor (when she was carrying), they did everything to get her babies killed. “They did not want girls.” Finally, after filing uncountable complaints to the Prime Minister, Department of Health and National Commission of Women, she is still waiting for justice. Now that she stays with her parents, she is intimidated by threat calls, all the time. “I get calls from those clinics. I am scared,” she said, in a video clip.

In the presence of hundreds of people, these ‘daughters of fire’ brought out their private tragedies on a public platform.

Was it difficult? Jigyasa said, “Yes, it is painful. But, it also gives me the strength to carry on.” Jigyasa has a two-year-old boy now. Though she married a man of her choice, she was abandoned when she refused to abort her child. After having a caesarean operation, she hoped her husband would come to enquire about her health. “But, he came to see me once, five months after my baby was born.” After four long years of mental, physical and emotional torture, Jigyasa has finally divorce d her husband. She defines her life with a line from her self-composed poem, “I am back in life.”

Jury reacts

There are stories of extreme violence, stories of death and stories of victory after facing near-death situations. It’s a clash of civilisations. It’s a clash between people and profits. What we need is coming together of all people’s movements. Instead of looking for justice, let us prevent these crimes by making our daughters true daughters of fire. Let them train to think that they are subjects and not objects.
–Kamla Bhasin, poet and activist

Dowry has been a way of financing an economy which cannot be financed. Through these stories, we see a convergence of multiple violence and multiple patriarchies. What we see now is a new hybrid form of patriarchy. The defence against violence can only be a collective defence.
–Vandana Shiva, environmentalist

We have to examine how deep is our commitment to say ‘no, I won’t’. Unless we individually change from inside, change deeply and genuinely, unless we have the courage to say no, there is no truth in this exercise. My plea is to take off your mask; then every act of yours will be an act of courage. –Mallika Sarabhai, renowned danseuse

Death sentence on dowry

Former Chief Justice of Supreme Court Justice VR Krishna Iyer suggested that July 28 be remembered every year by Vimochana and other women’s movements as a day when “Death sentence was pronounced on Dowry”. The Justice inaugurated the Indian Court on Tuesday.

In a passionate address, the Justice said, “Freedom is nothing until the last woman of India is free. Women should be empowered in all dimensions.”

July 29, 2009

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