Saturday, December 31, 2022

Pause. Stop. Go.

 As each campaign ends, a dozen times now, a sense of relief takes us over. Exhausted bodies fall ill, desperate to catch a break. Brains wrung dry, oscillate frantically between an optimistic post-mortem (what went well, what didn't, what to repeat, never again) and a horrified areyoumadtotrythisagain. Our faces need rest from all the smiling. Our hearts though, are always full. 

Full with the warmth of partners turned friends. Full with the satisfaction of having given something worthwhile everything we had. Full of a sense of agency--I can change this world, and when we are together we can do anything!

And still there is a flatness. After many dizzy-busy days, only accounts are left. And a report. Whether digital or in-person, the 17th and 18th day of the 16 Days Campaign are just flat.

With this year, we have completed four campaign cycles, the fourth of which was almost entirely in pandemic mode. The future has never seemed more uncertain--the world's and ours. 

It has been an intense campaign, full of very heavy, serious programmes--like this issue, like the state of this world. Our one attempt at lightness and brightness, the last art activity with children, was washed out. We leave this cycle, heavy-hearted, weighed down by the enormity of the work that never seems to get done on this journey to end gender-based violence and also determined to keep walking--dragging, if need be--towards this goal. One day at a time. 

The Prajnya Team leaves you with this promise.

Sudaroli, Shakthi, Nandhini, Meghna, Santha, Amirtha and Swarna

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

2022 Campaign Report


The 2022 Campaign Report is online! Take a look at the pdf version of the report here.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Day 15: Love, Honour and Law: A roundtable on draft legislation on crimes in the name of honour

On December 9, 2022, 15th day of the 2022 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence hosted an online roundtable discussion on the draft bill on 'Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour' that is being shared by Vincent Raj K. for debate in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Seeing this as a national issue, a panel of discussants from around India was invited. Shalin Maria Lawrence facilitated the session. You may find a saved copy of the recording here.

"As a person from the marginalised community, the Dalit community, Tamil Nadu has been a welfare state more than a progressive state, in terms of state. And, I talk with data - we have the social and economic indicators.", said Shalin Maria Lawrence, as she opened the discussion. She added that, "If you compare with the honour killings in UP, Madhya Pradesh, or in the northern parts of the Hindi belt of India, the nation does not know the number of honour crimes which happen in Tamil Nadu. For example, the inter-caste marriages is only 1%, or less than 1% in Tamil Nadu. You can call yourself a Periyar land, or a very progressive state, but then, why is your inter-caste percentage very, very less? So, the amount of inter-caste marriages is directly proportional to the violence happening on inter-caste couples."

Kathir Vincent Raj, Evidence:

  • "Honour crimes are taking place all over India. Honour killing, honour torture, honour humiliation, mob violence for the sake of arrogance, etc are taking place here. I would like to begin by thinking loudly and raising a question on our usage of the term honour. We call honour crimes as honour crimes because they are committed with an aim to protecting the honour of the family...I think it is time we shake this regressive idea from its roots and rather call it dishonourable."
  • "This bill, first and foremost, seeks to offer protection against victimisation in the name of honour. In the instance of such a crime, the bill outlines the extent of punishment to be given to the perpetrators and the compensation and rehabilitation to be given to the survivors. It also details the protective measures to be implemented, apart from detailing the various kinds of victimisation like murder, social and economic boycotts."
  • "I am pointing out that not just caste but patriarchy also plays a role in the killing in the name of honour; this draft bill is also about gender justice."

Abirami Jotheeswaran:

  • "Coming back to patriarchy, I would like to link it to caste and gender hegemony - how is this impacted? We all know that there is intersectionality in terms of caste and gender. Here, Dalit women are at the bottom. They don't have any rights or privilege, and if they are involved in these activities, then, we have been seeing lot of cases of murders, not just in Tamil Nadu, but all over the country."
  • "In reality, (we have to see) how many cases are reported, how many cases are suicide cases, so many cases are made to be an attempt to rape and has been booked under false charges. These are the situations that I would like to point out."
  • "I would like to give some suggestions (on the draft bill). One is mental trauma. Whatever the shelter home the woman is accessing, the status of the mind is very, very bad. They (women) cannot trust anyone. When parents become the culprits, then definitely they cannot believe anybody. So the mental trauma - how to handle it, how to counsel them, these aspects have to be covered. Secondly, police inaction. Police is not acting and taking the bribe...When there is negligence in the duty of the police, there should be some punitive measure...And, I would also say that there should be a national authority who are taking up the monitoring and better implementation of these kinds of legislations. So, I would like to focus on these three things."

Suresh V:
  • "The role of culture and the role of patriarchy gets intertwined with gender identities. And, how this plays a very, very big role in whether a person can live or now, and how they can live, and how they will have to survive. And that is at the bottom of the issue underlying the larger issue of honour killings."
  • "Fundamental to the issue we are talking about is the issue of choice. The choice exhibits itself in multiple ways."
  • "We need to look at this law a little bit more carefully in terms of what has worked and what has not worked with regard to SC and ST (POA) Act."

Dr. Manisha Gupte:

  • "I just want to say this loud and clear, that a victim can never be theirs. And the rapist can never be ours. But imagine, when rape happens, people take that position. Now imagine when a girl or a boy marries against the wishes of the family."
  • "In a country, the mere identity itself can become a point to kill, that itself allows punishment, that itself allows punishment by the police...So we know just the identity can be an issue. So then, what happens when you exercise your choice? To do something further by saying I am associating with someone who is from this identity? So then, we have to go to the basic question of identity...Identity comes as a part of our mobility from a very controlling system where nobody in the family has an identity except the patriarch."


Shalin Maria Lawrence (Moderator): Shalin Maria Lawrence is a social activist, Intersectional feminist, writer and orator. Belong to the oppressed community, she has been working towards empowering the Dalit Women and LGBTQ+ since 2012. She has worked with the Transgenders Rights Organization and has won the "Day of compassion" award from the Jane Goodall foundation. She has been working with the Dalit communities of the north Madras region, especially in and around Vyasarpadi where I has helped in the setting up of libraries, conducting campaigns and awareness programs towards Education and child rights from 2015. She has also been working with the Dalit women and children in the Dharavi Region of Mumbai since 2016. She has set up a library and has been conducting awareness workshops on women's rights and leadership and the annihilation of caste. For the last two years, she has been conducting regular workshops and training on violence on women, women rights and women leadership among the rural dalit women in and around Madurai and Chennai. She is a writer in English and Tamil and currently publishes her articles in popular magazines and news websites.

Kathir Vincent Raj (Presenter): Kathir Vincent Raj has been working in the field of human rights for over 25 years. A Dalit himself, his witnessing and experiencing caste based discrimination from his childhood triggered his determination to fight against the caste system and caste based atrocities against Dalits. From an initial career as a writer on the experiences of the socially marginalized, he later shifted to rights based interventions, especially human rights monitoring and legal and advocacy interventions. This work experience and a commitment to Dalit rights eventually led him to initiate an independent organization, Evidence in 2005 to fight against caste discrimination and for social justice and equality.

Ms. Abirami Jotheeswaran (Discussant) has been associated with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights-NCDHR, New Delhi, India since December 2005. Presently Ms. Abirami Jotheeswaran has been serving as the General Secretary of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch-NCDHR, New Delhi. She herself hails from Dalit Community, very actively involved and committed towards the empowerment of Dalit community. Abirami is a post graduated in Computer Science from University of Madras. Currently, she is pursuing her final year Law degree. Placing her in the organization, her primary responsibilities is to Plan, Monitor and Execute Programs related to Promotion of Dalit Women Leadership and Addressing Violence against Dalit women and minor girls in 7 States across the country. At the international level Abirami Jotheeswaran participated in World Social Forum 2007 held at Nairobi, Kenya and South Africa in 2007, to raise the Dalit concern in the forums. She raised her concern on the Police atrocities committed against Dalits and Dalit Women in 18th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum 2016, Brussels. Abirami Jotheeswaran, actively raised the issues related to Violence against Dalit women and the impunity subsists in India in the 41st UN HR Council at Geneva in the month of July 2019. Under her leadership, AIDMAM recently published a Status Report 2021 - “Dalit Women Rise for Justice” with the confidence that the report will be useful to the government while taking steps to improve Dalit Women’s condition in India through effective implementation of the existing Acts and policies.

V Suresh (Discussant): V. Suresh is a lawyer, Madras High Court; National General Secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) one of Indias' oldest and largest national level human rights organisation. Earlier served as Supreme Court appointed Adviser on Food Security for Tamil Nadu. Worked for 7 years as a full time activist with the Kashtakari Sanghatana (in Maharashtra) amongst Warli Adivasi marginal farmers and agricultural labourers. Recently appeared in Kannagi - Murugesan Honour Killing case for murdered Dalit Murugesan's family before the Madras High Court.  On June 6th, 2022, the Madras HC confirmed the conviction of Kannagi's father, brother and other relatives belonging to Caste Hindu community invovled with the killing, though the HC commuted the death penalty of brother to life sentence.

Dr. Manisha Gupte (Discussant): Dr. Manisha Gupte has been part of the women's movement in India since the mid 1970s; She has also been an activist in the health and civil rights movements. She studied Microbiology (MSc) and then, Sociology. Her PhD thesis was on the concept and practices of patriarchal honour, and how it intersects with caste, sexuality, violence and the agency of subordinated women. She co-founded MASUM, a rural women's organisation in 1987, after living in a drought prone rural area for five years, and has been its co-convenor since then. She spent one year (1997-98) in the Dept. of International Health at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore as a visiting fellow. She is actively associated with progressive organisations nationally, regionally and internationally as an advisor, board member or trainer (especially on gender, violence, sexuality, CEDAW and ESC rights). She has participated in, and promoted campaigns related to women's health; reproductive, sexual and minority rights; and, violence against women. She has worked on policy issues with the state and central governments in India over the past three decades. She is the Managing Trustee of Medico Friend Circle (MFC), a 40 year old autonomous health professionals’ group in India, and was the coordinator of the '10th International Women and Health Meeting (IWHM)', held in New Delhi in September 2005. She also coordinated the process towards the preparation of 'The Indian Women’s Health Charter'. She has co-edited a book (2102) titled ‘Honour’ and Women’s Rights: South Asian Perspectives. This book includes 15 papers, highlighting complementary feminist positions from seven countries.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Day 14: Domestic violence and access to justice: Regional perspectives

On the 14th day of the 2022 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender violence, we organised the "Domestic violence and access to justice: regional perspectives" panel discussion. South Asian states have passed laws on domestic violence but survivors still struggle to access justice. This panel brought together the experiences of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. Watch a saved copy of the recording here.

Panelists: Sara Hossein, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust; Saba Shaikh, Dastak, Pakistan; Ermiza Tegal, lawyer, Sri Lanka; Shazia Choudhry, Oxford University and Philippa Williams, Queen Mary University of London. The session was facilitated by Suneeta Dhar.

This panel is part of the project Surviving Violence: Everyday resilience and gender justice in rural-urban India funded by the British Academy Heritage Dignity and Violence Programme HDV190009. Research partners: Queen Mary University of London, Chaitanya-The Policy Consultancy, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata, Nari Samata Manch and University of Oxford.

"It almost seems like the COVID  pandemic underscored the structural nature of gender inequalities within and across countries, and it essentially brought to light the invisible, unrecognised pandemic of gender-based violence, domestic violence and intimate partner violence. I hate the word shadow-pandemic; I think that domestic violence is not a shadow pandemic. That it was given visibility during this time by the UN and other agencies speaks of how little attention this issue has got over time", Dr. Suneeta Dhar said, as she opened the session.

Shazia Choudhry, Oxford University and Philippa Williams, Queen Mary University of London:

  • "PWDVA (2005) encompasses the broader definition of violence; it is not just about physical violence, but also about emotional, psychological, financial and sexual violence as well."
  • "There were also problematic attitudes in terms of lawyers, unfortunately. Survivors' opinions about lawyers were actually mixed. In a few cases, survivors found their lawyers to be helpful, didn't charge them high fees and followed up their cases. Survivors who accessed their lawyers through NGOs had fairly positive feedback about their lawyers."
  • "There are huge barriers to accessing formal justice. And, as a result, women, therefore, are more likely to turn to the informal mechanisms that actually exist. And, the most commonly accessible and prominent body was the panchayat."

Sara Hossein, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust

  • "I think some of the crucial points about our (Bangladesh's) framework is that although we have this strong, constitutional mandate for equality, we, of course, know that, there lives, alongside, a lot of very contradictory, continuing, persistent discrimination in terms of the legislation, and that we have a legislative framework which inhabits three different centuries."
  • "One of the really challenging limits of our legislation, in addition to the exclusions already mentioned about people with disabilities and sexual minorities is the exclusion of divorced women from the ambit of the protection of the domestic violence law."
  • "While there is an increased awareness of domestic violence as a wrong, for which remedies are available, there is very little awareness of what those remedies are and very little awareness of where you can go to access services for remedies and protection."

Saba Shaikh, Dastak, Pakistan:
  • "Mostly, women in Pakistan resolve issues by going to the locals or elders in the community. If, for example, that doesn't work out, then they will reach out to relatives or friends within the community who can possibly link them to other possible options."
  • "Women's rights of freedom and choice and movement are severely restricted in the name of modesty or protection and they consider to epitomize honour and therefore any sort of measure that they take for their rights seems like they are bringing dishonour to the family."
  • "Oftentimes there are judicial pronouncements which reflect the negative bias; we have had a lot of cases and judgements where you see the judges are using their own sort of subjective morality instead of really looking at the law."

Ermiza Tegal, lawyer, Sri Lanka
  • "During the COVID pandemic, for example, and the lockdown restrictions, we only noticed that advisory services was what was possible. And then, all of the actual services required, even to come out of the house, to come out of your environment of abuse or environmental violence was not possible for women."
  • "Sri Lanka also needs to be considered in its socio-political context of violence and impunity so there's a long history of violence, even today, with the Prevention of Terrorism Act being used against protestors in Sri Lanka."
  • "Laws are really imperfect tools because they are products of our socio-political systems and we recognise this when we work with it. The Domestic Violence Act sits amongst laws that are very unfair on people, and they don't recognise the experiences of women, like cyber violence, care work is not recognised, abortion is an issue that still needs to be addressed, marital rape is explicitly recognised."

About the Speakers:
1. Sara Hossain is a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, practicing in the areas of constitutional, corporate and family law. She is a partner at the law firm of Dr. Kamal Hossain
and Associates, and also serves pro bono as the Honorary Executive Director of the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST). She is currently a Professor of Practice at SOAS, University of London. She is a Bencher of the Middle Temple. Sara was educated at Wadham College, Oxford (1988), and called to the Bar from Middle Temple (1989), then enrolled in the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh (1992) and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (2008). She has been involved in landmark cases and campaigns on gender equality (‘fatwa’ violence discriminatory rape laws,sexual harassment), prohibition of corporal punishment in schools, protection against torture and freedom of expression. Sara has received awards for her work from the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, the US State Department (Women of Courage), ‘Ananya’ magazine (Top Ten), and was selected as a World Economic Forum Fellow and an Asia 21 Fellow.

2. Saba Shaikh is trained as a lawyer and also holds a degree in public policy. She works as a human rights advocate with over 14 years of experience in implementing and improving response strategies for those facing abuse, gender based violence or denial of their fundamental rights through provision of legal aid, training and community awareness. She is currently the Executive Director of Dastak Charitable Trust, an access to justice center for women and children that, among other programs, runs the only private shelter in the country for women and girls at extreme risk of violence. Saba has executed projects for a range of international organizations including Oxfam, Open Society Foundations, DFID, KIOS Foundation, and USAID among others. Saba is an Atlantic Council Emerging Leaders of Pakistan (ELP) Fellow 2012, Asia Society (India Pakistan Young Leaders Initiative) Fellow 2013 and US State IVLP Fellow 2019.

3. Suneeta Dhar is a Gender and Development Specialist with over four decades of experience on advancing women’s human rights. She has worked with community based civil society organizations as well as with international organizations. She is an external member of a few Internal Committees on Sexual Harassment of government and civil society organizations. Suneeta holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and has been a recipient of the Fulbright and Advocacy Institute Fellowships for Development Practitioners. She has co-authored research studies, training manuals, and papers on women’s safety, gender and SDGs, transformative governance and women’s rights. Suneeta was recognized by Apolitical’s 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy in 2021.

4. Philippa Williams is research and teaching intersects political, economic and development geography, with a focus on everyday political life in India and its transnational community. More specifically, she interested in questions concerning how the state is experienced, how citizenship is articulated and how marginality, particularly in the context of violence/nonviolence is lived and increasingly how digital technology is mediating everyday political life in India. In the UK research she has also explored the lived implications of the Indian emigration state and the UK government’s hostile immigration policy for recent South Asian migrants.She is Primary Investigator on two live projects:1) Social media and everyday life in India with Lipika Kamra examines how WhatsApp is shaping everyday political life from the family to political party and the nation. The initial phase of this research was funded by WhatsApp. We are now embarking on a second phase focused on lived experiences of digital privacy in India.

5. Shazia Choudhry is Professor of Law and the Jeffrey Hackney Tutorial Fellow in Law at Wadham. She is also an Academic Bencher and Associate Academic Fellow at the Inner Temple.Her research is focused on gender, human rights and violence against women and seeks to examine various dimensions of these areas from an interdisciplinary and feminist perspective. In doing so she employs doctrinal, theoretical and empirical methods. Her scholarship sits at the interface of criminal law, human rights law and family law.She has published three books. 

6. Ermiza Tegal has a Masters in Law from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. She has 15 years of litigating in public law, fundamental rights, land, labour and family law. She has served as a legal expert on State advisory committees on law reform. Her recent advocacy and research work involves law reform relating to family law, domestic violence, protection for victims of torture, counter terrorism and human rights, gender based violence and a people’s land policy. She is a founder member of Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group advocating muslim family law reforms. She is also currently a visiting fellow with the Harvard Law School Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World and a member of the Feminist Collective on Economic Justice in Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Day 13: Tamil Nadu Domestic Violence Support Services: A Mapping

We are pleased to bring you a new Prajnya resource: the Tamil Nadu Directory of Support Services for Violence Victim-Survivors. This data was compiled for a mapping exercise of the Surviving Violence project ( and has been edited and updated by the Prajnya Team. At present, the directory includes information about five categories of support services for victim-survivors of violence, namely:

1. Swadhar Home

2. Family Counselling Centres

3. One Stop Centres

4. Protection Officers

5. All Women Police Stations

We will continue to add, update and will share a Tamil version soon. In the interim, do use and share the Directory at Thank you!

Day 12: Ensuring Access to Reproductive Choice: A Workshop || @drumaram_ram @Archytypes @swarraj @sudaroliacr @Shakthi_2016

Prepared with notes from Dr. S. Shakthi.

On the 12th day of the 2022 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence, we organised an interactive panel discussion, where Dr. Uma Ram, Dr. Prabha Swaminathan, Dr. Jaishree Gajaraj and Archanaa Sekar discussed issues related to sexual and reproductive health rights from the point of view of health care providers. In partnership with ATNRCOG and IRC India South, the 3-hour long event, Ensuring Access to Reproductive Choice: A Workshop" was conducted at Savera Hotel, Chennai.

The topics addressed in the workshop were Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Abortion, Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence. The discussions aimed at focussing on how professionals in the medical field would respond to scenarios on the aforementioned themes. Dr. Uma Ram and Dr. Jaishree Gajaraj opened the workshop by discussing abortion, particularly on how to handle cases that may make the role of the doctor complicated, like cases involving minors, which may be filed under POSCO. They supplemented their discussion with several concrete examples of cases they have witnessed. The doctors, during the workshop, acknowledged that regardless of one's personal belief on topics like SRHR and abortion, it is essential for a medical professional to follow the law. The law, here, explicitly states that abortion is a right, which was emphasised throughout the discussion.

In the next hour, Archanaa Seker looked into the theme of access to contraception. She took the audience through an understanding of the ground reality of accessing contraception - in terms of the material, cultural and economic barriers. She mentioned that it is essential to shift the focus to not just look at individuals dealing with the possibility of getting pregnant, but to also look into what people's sexual practices are, what their reproductive choices are and what the overarching conditions for the same may be. The availability of Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs) was also discussed. This discussion was insightful for doctors as it provided them with an understanding of what happens on-ground.

Additionally, during the course of the session, Dr. Swarna Rajagopalan (Prajnya) provided the audience with an understanding of what domestic violence is - that it goes beyond physical and sexual violence, and can also be economic and emotional violence. Dr. Prabha Swaminathan accompanied this conversation with her insights on how the medical fraternity must respond when a patient who has faced domestic violence approaches you, and reflected on the theme through her experiences as an OBGYN. The speakers also touched upon the need to be mindful of the language that is used while communicating with victims-survivors of domestic violence.

In the last hour, role plays were conducted by seven doctors:

1. A doctor and patient - A case of an unmarried woman wanting an abortion.

2. A doctor and patient - A case of a woman who comes in with two children (one of them is less than a year old), and she is pregnant again. She does not want another child, and does not want her family to know that she is getting an abortion.

3. A doctor, a patient and a husband who is abusive - Dealing with domestic violence, especially when the abuser might be in the same room as the patient.

The role plays were done in two segments where one version showed how the doctors must not respond, and all the things that must not be said/done. The other version looked into how the doctors must respond, and the importance of ensuring that their actions are empathetic and supportive.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Day 11: Shutdowns and Domestic Violence Help-Seeking: A research symposium


On December 5, 2022, Rajaram Research Fellow, Arshie Showkat Qureshi presented her ongoing work on the impact of successive shutdowns on the ability of Kashmiri women to access help when they experienced violence. Sarala Emmanuel, activist and researcher, from Batticaloa, Sri Lanka brought to the discussion perspectives from a region that had also experienced conflict over a long period. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Day 10: Community Cafe

Rapporteur: Sudaroli Ramasamy

It was Sunday evening when I reached the Better World Shelter for Women with Disabilities at Royapettah. The two things lingering in my mind before I started the conversation with the residents of the shelter home were:

1. The precautions that I need to take care of while I am bringing up the conversation for the Community Cafe. Because I do not want to trigger them at any point of time during the chit-chat.
2. The kind of language I should use in terms of consciously using the words with regard to disability in Tamil.

But once I reached there, they burst my bubbles of thoughts in the air with their bright smiles and giggling with laughter; they made me so comfortable. We sat in a big circle, it was a casual conversation. I started the same with asking them to introduce themselves with their name and one thing they are fond of. They were very enthusiastic and eager to share what they liked - it ranged from their love for malligai poo (jasmine flower) to eating ice cream. After the introduction, they started taking the conversation forward from the status of women in the society to the discrimination they face in public spaces, workspaces, etc. The conversation was around their own experiences in the purview of disabilities and the challenges they face. They were talking about how the people are not empathetic towards them; how it was very challenging when they travel in the bus; how the people do not want to see them when they start a day/ go for an auspicious activity; the layers of religion and gender added to the disability and posed itself as several layers of burden.

They were sharing about the people's attitude to them based on their religion when they were approached for matchmaking for marriage. I was quite enraged when I heard them say - though the bridegroom had a disability, his family would look for the non-SC girl and it did not matter if the girl had a disability or not. The residents were talking about how people took advantage of them under the guise of helping the residents. One visually-impaired girl was describing how a man who helped her earlier, stalked her to the shelter. Sexual abuse and exploitation are not the exclusion here. Each of their experiences speaks about their solidarity in supporting each other in all instances.
Dr. Aishwarya Rao, the founder of the organization, was part of the conversation. It was heartwarming to see the friendly relationship between the residents and the founder. They were very casually talking in her presence without any hesitation. She flagged how vulnerable they are in all spaces - public and private. She was very proud of the strong bond of solidarity expressed by the residents.

It was a great experience to learn from them, to know the importance of solidarity, finding the little joys in life and fighting against all odds with a smile.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Day 9: Visual Representations of Gender-Based Violence

On the ninth day of the 2022 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence, photographers Vidya Kulkarni and Priyadarshini Ravichandran, aimed to answer the question "What are appropriate ways to represent gender-based violence visually?", in a session facilitated by Dr. Philippa Williams, Queen Mary University of London. Click here to watch a saved video of the discussion.

This discussion is part of the project Surviving Violence: Everyday resilience and gender justice in rural-urban India funded by the British Academy Heritage Dignity and Violence Programme HDV190009. Research partners: Queen Mary University of London, Chaitanya-The Policy Consultancy, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata, Nari Samata Manch and University of Oxford. 

"If you Google domestic violence images, you will come across images that sensationalise physical violence, depicting bruised and battered women and posing male aggressors to be carrying a belt in their hand...In the brief, we invited photographers to make photos that did not sensationalise violence or show women as battered and bruised victims of violence....The photography and the practice and process behind the photos that has come out of our interaction together, we will be discussing on this panel today.", said Dr. Philippa Williams, introducing the photographers of the discussion, Vidya Kulkarni and Priyadarshini Ravichandran.

Vidya Kulkarni:

  • "Photography, as a component, was appealing to me, because we all know the power of visuals and how strongly they communicate, especially in this time when a lot of visuals are consumed, more than the texts. But, though we know the power of visuals, our feminist movements contain mostly women's texts. Therefore this conscience obtained of this project to work with the photographers is really important."
  • "Violence, as it is, remains invisible. And, within that, surviving strategies are also invisible. So, to focus on them visually is a really good idea. And, I think, there is a need for more such collaborative efforts and to create gender-sensitive visuals, if you want to offset the stereotypical images around gender in the mainstream and other media."
  • "With this understanding - focusing on emotion, and focusing on domestic space, I took the photographs."
  • "This photo, I feel that, women are always in the background. What they feel, and what they think is also not in the forefront, and it is in the background. Their happiness and well-being is judged from the outer change, the façade....when you actually are in the field, you work with whatever is in front of you; you create images from that. So, it is not like one has a fixed idea before going to the field. One has to be open to whatever is in front of you, and it is surprising because you can get unexpected results." (photograph on the right)
  • "I felt, while reading the stories, that while women go through abuse and violence, they are thinking about the options. It is not that they are mutely at the receiving end. But, they do think, while they carry on their routine, everyday activities." (photograph on the left)

Priyadarshini Ravichandran:
  • "It was also important for me to hear that their research and writing were about the heavy silence about gendered violence. That, sort of, really initiated this work for me. The conversations really made me understand that, yet again, I just needed to follow where the medium of photography was leading me to, rather than me making very thoughtful choices. So, I took on this challenge to enter something that was relatively unknown to me."
  • "All of the stories they shared, their anger, their fears, their empathy and conviction towards the need for challenging patriarchy and deepening the understanding towards intimate violence really shook me. And, it somehow directly connected me to my own inner feminine self and the capacity of this inner self to hear what is unsaid, to see the invisible and feel what is not just my own lived experiences, but of a collective, powerful whole. This really gripped me."
  • "My process was to go intuitively to places that communicated what is left and heard, what is mute when very loud, and I let myself be absorbed."

Adding to the discussion, Dr. Swarna Rajagopalan, pointing at the photograph on the right, mentioned that, "this one, for example, I am not sure where she took the photo, but to me, it looks like the outside of a temple - the cloth is silk, all sorts of things are bundled but the bundle is going nowhere. And, you know, the fact that it is such a big package speaks of the burden that survivors are carrying but they have nowhere to go, the package is too heavy, and they are stranded in a place that no one wants to claim. This literally looks like the middle of nowhere" 

About Dr. Philippa Williams: Philippa is a Reader/Associate Professor in Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London, UK. Her research is animated by everyday politics of the state, citizenship, violence/non-violence in India as well as the geopolitics of digital privacy through the case of WhatsApp. She currently leads two main projects “Surviving Violence: Everyday resilience and gender-justice in rural-urban India” and “The politics of WhatsApp”

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Day 8: The Cost of Work: A Research Symposium


On December 2, 2022, Radheshyam Jadhav, journalist and Rajaram Research Fellow, presented his ongoing research project on the web of gender-based violence within which women sugarcane cutters in Maharashtra seek and carry out their work. The point of departure for his work has been forced hysterectomies but his research places that in the broader context of structural patriarchal violence and regional economies. 

Dr. Gayatri Menon, Azim Premji University; Dr. Meena Gopal, TISS Mumbai and Dr. Mekhala Krishnamurthy, Ashoka University and Centre for Policy Research served as discussants. In their comments, they made substantive suggestions about theoretical perspectives that might be relevant, about intersectional concerns that may be made more explicit, about highlighting agency and solidarity as well as alternative ways of organising the final work. 

A small group attended but it was a deeply engaged discussion and as thoughtful as the original presentation.