Where testimony of women is the proof

Maleeha Raghaviah

KOZHIKODE: When courts, tribunals, the police and grievance redress cells fail to provide justice, where do women go?

“This is an oft-repeated, anguished query women’s groups have been addressed with. The notion of women’s court is an endeavour that seeks to fill the gap,” says Dona Fernandez of the Bangalore-based non- governmental organisation Vimochana, in a chat with The Hindu.

Roundtable held

Ms. Fernandez was here to address a roundtable held as a prelude to the women’s court organised on Saturday by Anweshi and other women’s groups to popularise the new channel of justice for women.

“The procedure, different from the usual court of law, provides space to women to make public, through their testimony, the violence or harassment they suffer in life. The testimony can also be that of women who stood up for a cause or resisted an alleged discriminatory treatment. The experience of women is taken as the truth. There is no trial or evidence to corroborate,” Ms. Fernandez elaborates.

A space for them

The women’s court provides space for women to converse and network with women’s associations. It is expected to provide a sense of healing.

It is a justice mechanism without revenge, based on the perception that the perpetrator of violence is also a victim of patriarchal social norms.

Ms. Fernandez opines that this is an attempt to change established practices, such as gender roles, and focus on the dignity of the human being.

Such courts have been conducted the world over starting in Asia. The initiative has been held in Arab, Latin American and African countries.


“The only difference is that the social issues that confront women are different from country to country. Testimony of women is not confined to sufferings alone, but had the lighter side of life highlighted too,” she says.

“In African countries, it is poverty or survival that plagues women. It can be the question of displacement and denial of livelihood elsewhere when development projects, such as large dams, or war rendered women homeless. Prostitution, human trafficking and dowry are issues plaguing women,” she says.

Ms. Fernandez says female foeticide is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

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