The AWHRC – a network of women and human rights organization in the Asia Pacific region has integrated the spirit of the Women in Black Movement into one of its major programmes, the Courts of Women.
In the words of Corinne Kumar who is the founder of the AWHRC and the International Coordinator of the Courts of Women “The Courts of Women are an unfolding of a space, an imaginary: a horizon that invites us to think, to feel, to challenge to connect, to dance, to dream. It is an attempt to define a new space for women, and to infuse this space with a new vision, a new politics. It is a gathering of voices and visions of the global south, locating itself in a discourse of dissent: it is in itself a dislocating practice, challenging the new world order of globalisation, crossing lines, breaking new ground: listening to the voices and movements in the margins”
The Courts of Women are public hearings.
They are symbolic spaces; sacred spaces where the voices of women victims of violence, of survivors, of resistors are listened to and through the listening attempt to challenge the universality of the human rights discourse, hegemonic knowledge paradigms that have excluded the visions, wisdoms and experiences of women. The Courts of Women hear of the need to extend the discourse to include the meanings and symbols and perspectives of women.
While the Courts of Women began in Asia and several Courts have been held in the region, Corinne Kumar who is at present the Secretary General of El Taller – an international ngo based in Tunisia has taken the Courts of Women to the other regions of the world – Africa, Arab, Central and Latin America.
Thirty nine Courts have been held so far on different issues and held mostly in the global south; some Courts have been World Courts, some regional and several Country Courts.
There are several events that are held before and after each Court including the Women in Black which is held before the day of the Court.
The following are some of the Courts before which the Women in Black was organized
• Speaking Tree Womenspeak on Crimes against Women Related to the Violence of Development, Bangalore, January 1995
• Daughters of Maat
First World Court of Women on Crimes against Women, Beijing, September, 1995
• Mahakama ya Wamama Wa Afrika, June 1999 Nairobi, Kenya
• The World Court of Women Against War for Peace, Cape Town, South Africa, March, 2001
• The South Asia Court of Women on the Violence of Trafficking and HIV/AIDS, August 2001, Dhaka, Bangladesh
• Daughters of Fire, the India Court of Women on Dowry and Related Forms of Violence was held from July 2009, Bangalore.
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The Vision and Objectives of the Court of Women
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 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.