Resolves to fight for interactions across caste, religion

The Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS), which held a two-day workshop on plurality, justice and democracy, has resolved to fight for the constitutional ideal of fraternity.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday to highlight the discussions held during the seminar that concluded on Tuesday, the former president of the IAWS, Ms. Sumi Krishnan, said the resolution was taken against the increasing attacks on fraternal bonding in coastal Karnataka. The seminar was held in association with the Roshni Nilaya School of Social Work at its campus in the city.

The resolution stated, “We are disturbed by the series of attacks on people, especially the young, who choose to live out the meaning of fraternity by interacting across boundaries of caste and religion.” Further it stated, “We are disturbed by the attempts to constrain the expressions of women within narrow cultural codes through intimidation and violence.”

Pointing out that the decision to hold the seminar in the city was a conscious one, Ms. Krishnan said that the recent violence against women in coastal Karnataka, in the name of religion and culture, provided the backdrop for the event.

She said that the solution taken by the IAWS at the end of the seminar was deliberately cryptic. She said, “We tried not to focus on any particular episode, such as the attack on women at a city pub, because we wanted to underline the pattern of attacks on women in this region. And these attacks cannot be pinned down to one single episode.” She added that the discussions were aimed at “connecting the dots” and the attempt was to place the ongoing attacks against the larger context of violence against women.

Campaign

However, since the seminar was held in the city, specific references were made to the vigilante attacks and the attack on women in a city pub. “There was an extensive debate on the pub attack and the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign that was launched in response to it,” Ms. Krishnan said.

The campaign, which left older women too embarrassed to react, was deeply analysed at the seminar. The discussion gave them an insight into the minds of young, liberated women even as it provided them an opportunity to reflect on the true nature of the Pink Chaddi campaign, she said. “The academic nature of the seminar allowed the participants to see the power of humour as a compelling political weapon. For the Pink Chaddi campaign was, in the end, a clever and potent spoof on the khakhi uniform worn by certain fundamentalist groups,” said Ms. Krishnan.

Legalised prostitution

The seminar also focussed on issues of honour killings in north India and featured a presentation on a legalised system of prostitution among sections of the Muslim community in Hyderabad. The presentation made by Ms. Jameela Nishat from the Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Organisation in Hyderabad talked about how Muslim women from extremely poor backgrounds were being married to rich businessmen and Arab sheiks for money.

“The marriage is legalised by a cleric and the marriage and divorce contracts are signed simultaneously. These marriages last for just a few days and the women marry several times over,” Ms. Nishat said.

“By raising all these issues in a single seminar, which was set against the backdrop of attacks on women in coastal Karnataka, we managed to create a larger fraternity of women in distress,” said Ms. Rita Noronha, dean of the Master of Social Work programme at the Roshni Nilaya School of Social Work.

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