Ending Gender-based Violence – Cohort 2: Awareness of Policies & Governance

Event Report
Reetwika Mallick

Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, conducted Ending Gender-based Violence – Cohort 2: Awareness of Policies & Governance Four-Week Online Certificate Training Course from March 5 – 27, 2024.

The chair of the program was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI

Conveners for the program were Adv Dr Shalu Nigam, Visiting Senior Fellow IMPRI; Advocate, Author, and Researcher, Gender and Human Rights Prof Gummadi Sridevi, Visiting Professor, IMPRI Dr Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI Dr Arjun Kumar, Director, IMPRI, New Delhi.

Day 1: Introduction to Gender-based Violence

Professor Vibhuti Patel in the opening session for the certificate training course gave a historical context of foundations of gender-based violence. Prof. Patel drew a picture of the global and national movements for women’s rights. In the session, Prof. Patel also addressed the key challenges faced while curbing gender-based violence.

The session delved into various legislative reforms undertaken to address gender-based violence. The provisions were elucidated in a lucid manner in the session by Prof. Patel. The limitations of these reforms were also highlighted. In the session, Prof Patel shared case studies to draw the session’s attention towards the imprudence of the authority.

Prof. Patel concluding the session enumerated the need for collective action and comprehensive approaches involving all stakeholders to effectively address gender-based violence in India.

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Advocate Flavia Agnes in the next session for the day untangled the role of policies in addressing gender-based violence. Adv. Agnes highlighted various legal reforms and campaigns within the women’s movement.

Adv. Agnes in her session presented the discrepancy between the legal reforms in addressing the issues raised by the women’s rights movements. Adv. Agnes explained the issues surrounding the Mathura rape case while discussing the origin of anti-rape movements. The session also addressed the abuse in domestic spaces and trafficking of women.

Through the question-and-answer session, issues surrounding discriminatory cultural practices like dowry and approaches to address them were discussed. The session acknowledging the efforts by various stakeholders was optimistic towards fostering positive change.

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Day 2: Overview of Policy Frameworks

Adv. Dr Albertina Almeida located the policy approaches to address gender-based violence. The session commenced with Adv. Dr. Almeida addresses the need for addressing the issue of Gender-based Violence. Discussing the various approaches to deal with abuse, Adv. Dr. Almeida explained the social norms approach. The social norms approach is about calling out the gender insensitive by identifying them.

Adv. Dr. Almeida stressed on the role of institutional support in ensuring women’s safety and dignity.

Elucidating the second approach of Intersectionality, Adv. Dr. Almeida emphasized on recognising the diverse identities of women in addressing gender-based violence. Adv. Dr. Almeida also highlighted ways in which judiciary is adopting the intersectional approach.

The survivor centric approach, focusses on the survivor’s experiences in dealing with violence against women. While the feminist approach, according to Adv. Dr. Almeida addresses the underlying issue holistically taking into consideration all the possible stakeholders while dealing with gender-based violence. Adv. Dr. Almeida concluded the session by advocating adoption of a comprehensive approach towards gender-based violence.

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The second session of the course, marked with the engaging session of Dr. Vahida Nainar on gender-based violence and convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Dr. Nainar commenced the session by explaining the significance of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in addressing gender-based abuse. Dr. Nainar in the session highlighted the shortcomings within CEDAW and the process of their acknowledgement and subsequent rectification.

The legislative reforms in India were discussed by Dr. Nainar for curbing gender-based abuse. Dr. Nainar also underlined the drawbacks in the reforms. Listing the steps towards ensuring a more aware and therefore more violence free society, Dr. Nainar stressed on the roles played by NGOs and government in promoting a culture of respect and equality.

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The informative legal hands on session led by esteemed panelist Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam, unraveled legal complexities of gender-based violence legislations. Begining the session with the concept of consent in sexual violence cases, Adv. Dr. Nigam highlighted the difficulties in tracing consent when a child is involved in cases of sexual abuse. Discussing various landmark judgements on cases of sexual abuse, Adv. Dr. Nigam also outlined the amendments in the criminal law of the land.

Adv. Dr. Nigam in the session elucidated the systematic challenges and implementation of amendments through instances of sexual abuse cases. Adv. Dr. Nigam, recognising the positive legislative amendments towards curbing gender-based abuse, emphasized the need for comprehensive interventions engaging all stakeholders to combat sexual violence effectively.

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Day 3: Governance Structures in Combating Gender-based Violence

Prof Bijayalaxmi Nanda’s session on the role of governance in combating gender based violence marked the beginning of day three of the training course. Prof. Nanda set the tone of the session by locating violence in both public as well as private spheres. She enumerated several scholarly viewpoints on the importance of considering personal as political in the session.

Prof. Nanda addressed the profound issue of modes through which gender-based abuse take place within domestic as well as public places. Prof. Nanda underlining the different experiences of women’s interaction with the state, elucidated different approaches to address gender-based violence.  Concluding the session, Prof Nanda outlined the requirement of designing a multi-pronged strategy to challenge patriarchy and associated violence against women.

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The second session of day 3 began with Dr Padma Deosthali’s address on understanding trauma and healing in gender-based violence. Dr. Deosthali, adopting a psychological dimension, explained the effects of any kind of violence on the survivor. Dr. Deosthali attributed the increased negative impact on mental health on the present structure of families.

The feminist perspective towards violence was highlighted while explaining the cause of violence as imbalance in power relation. She introduced the feminist counseling for the survivors of violence in the session. The several steps in such counseling was explained in great detail by Dr. Deosthali.

Following this, Dr. Deosthali addressed the principles behind the feminist counseling. Dr. Deosthali explained  the importance of validation of women’s feelings and experiences by counselors. She highlighted the need to develop a survivor friendly rather than a survivor blaming environment in fighting against gender-based violence.

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Adv Dr Shalu Nigam led the legal hands on the session, enumerating the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act and other measures ensuring safe domestic spaces for women. Dr. Nigam highlighted the need for ensuring safe domestic spaces for women. The various forms of abuse inflicted upon women was explained by Dr. Nigam. The menace of domestic abuse, Adv. Dr. Nigam explained cuts across caste, class, religion and age.

Taking the session forward, Dr. Nigam enumerated the constitutional dilemma, whereby provisions of equality are enshrined under fundamental rights, however, within family, seldom equality exists. Dr. Nigam carried the session forward with untangling the legal support provided under the domestic violence act. She explained both the pragmatic and progressive provisions of the act as well as the hindrances in implementation of such provisions. The session concluded with a series of engaging questions.

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Day 4: Challenges in Implementing Policies

 Day 4 of the interactive course commenced with  Ms Anju Dubey Pandey’ address on case studies of effective gender-based violence interventions. Ms. Pandey, an esteemed expert in the field highlighted how gender-based violence is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. Some eye-opening statistics were shared in the session by Ms. Pandey while explaining the extent of violence faced by women.

Ms. Pandey shared the ecological model of gender-based abuse as an approach to study gender-based violence. She explained the various concentric circles within the model with real life events. Highlighting the preventive initiatives against gender-based violence, Ms. Pandey classified the strategies into selective prevention, qualified universal prevention and need based prevention.

Ms. Pandey also enumerated the possible strategic action areas whereby the different stakeholders can contribute in addressing gender-based violence. The session concluded with several pragmatic and successful examples of initiatives against gender-based abuse.

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Prof Vina Vaswani in the second enlightening session of the day highlighted upon the profound issue of gender-based violence and medico legal cases from a forensic perspective. Prof. Vaswani traced the history of evidence being used in dispensing justice. Following this, she enumerated the medico-legal cases of domestic violence and the challenges in establishing evidence in such cases.

Prof. Vaswani in her address highlighted the silver line between law and ethics. Explaining the child abuse cases from a forensic lense, Prof. Vaswani underlined the positive steps taken towards addressing them. Concluding the session, Prof Vaswani reiterated the need for solidarity within the society to fight against any form of violence

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Adv Dr Shalu Nigam in the legal hands section focussed upon dowry violence in India and the law reforms and socio-cultural transformations surrounding it. Commencing the session with an eye-opening case study of dowry death, Dr. Nigam drew the session’s attention towards the prevalence of such incidents. Dr. Nigam in the session explained the provisions of Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 in a lucid manner, elaborating the definition of dowry explained in the act.

The session also discussed the procedure for filing in the cases along with underlining the lacunas in the Act. The steps forwards in addressing the legal lacunas were discussed by Dr. Nigam. The session concluded with some discerning questions by the participants.

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Day 5: Best Practices in Addressing Gender-based Violence

Rituparna Neog set the tone for the day 5 of the certificate training course by sharing thoughts on gender-based violence with the LGBTQIA+ community. The speaker stressed on the importance of examining the intentions and perspectives behind acts of gender-based violence towards the LGBTQIA+ community. The session then delved into addressing the violation of the rights of the LGBTQIA+ communities due to violence against them.

The speaker, through sharing of several experiences and real-life events, elucidated how gender-based violence often begins at home. The challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community aggravates due to social non-acceptance of their identity.. Such non-acceptance leads to LGBTQIA+ children and youth to overcompensate by suppressing their true selves. It perpetuates internalized prejudices, shame, and a multi-layered cycle of oppression that is very difficult to overcome without support systems, Rituparna Neog explained.

The session also enumerated the steps forwards in addressing the gender-based violence towards the LGBTQIA+ communities. The speaker explained the need for a more inclusive environment not only within domestic spaces, but also within educational institutions and workspaces. Concluding the session, the speaker reiterated the necessity of equal opportunity and acceptance for the LGBTQIA+ communities.

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The next session for the day discussed harassment against women as a multi-dimensional and pervasive issue. The session was led by Advocate Celin Thomas who commenced the session by comparing domestic violence as a hodden epidemic. The session encompassed diverse forms of violence, especially focussing upon financial violence inflicted upon women.

In the session harassments at workplaces and academic institutions were discussed in length and the legal aids addressing them were also explained. The provisions of Domestic Violence acts were delineated. The process of filing of an FIR and types of FIR that can be filed were highlighted by Adv. Thomas.

Acknowledging the importance of documentation in instances of harassment, Adv. Thomas enlightened the session with the legal nuances that need to be kept in mind while filing for a harassment complaint. Concluding the session, Adv. Thomas elucidated the requirement of  a multi-pronged approach involving legal reforms, robust enforcement mechanisms, and societal awareness in ending gender-based violence.

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The legal hands for day 5, led by Advocate Dr. Shalu Nigam discussed inclusive justice in the Indian courtroom. Adv. Dr. Nigam explained, the judicial system, meant to uphold justice and equality, often grapples with deeply ingrained gender stereotypes that undermine the pursuit of true equity. Adv. Dr. Nigam acknowledged the positive step of the Supreme Court’s handbook on combating gender stereotypes.

Adv. Dr. Nigam discussed the meager representation of women within judicial systems. Highlighting the infrastructural deficiencies within the judicial premises as a hindrance towards making the premises gender-friendly. Sharing several examples of judgements, Dr. Nigam underlined the non-inclusive nature of justice dispensing systems in India.

The session also highlighted some of the landmark judgements, breaking the patriarchal norms. Concluding the session, Adv. Dr. Nigam outlined the need for inclusivity within Indian courts.

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Day 6: Case Studies in Successful Interventions

The introductory session of day 6 was led by Prof. Saumya Uma who highlighted the contributions of the women’s rights movement in addressing gender-based violence. She provided a historical perspective towards the Indian women’s movement and shared the relevance of such knowledge.

Her session categorized four phases of women;s movement. She also traced the transformation in nature of violence perpetrated against women over time. Prof. Uma painted the picture of a socially acceptable woman as a primary care-giver. Concluding the session, Prof. Uma reiterated the need for mass movements in order to bring positive change in society.

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The next speaker to take the stage was Dr. Keerthi Bollineni who discussed NGO’s catalyst role as changemakers in society. Dr. Bollineni traced the works of NGOs as research and advocacy oriented that aids in raising awareness in the society. Dr. Bollineni listed four key NGO advocacy strategies in her session and enumerated them.

The next half of the session highlighted upon the profound issue of prevention of Sexual Harassment Against Women at Work Place. Dr. Bollineni delineated the crucial rile played by the non-governmental organizations in supporting individuals who fall through the cracks of the legal system. She shared several examples of such pragmatic impact of NGOs in fighting gender-based violence. The session later took a legal path and highlighted several judgements that led to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act. Dr. Bollineni through her enlightening talk enumerated the new proactive role the NGOs have played in ending gender-based violence.

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Legal Hands on Session V, focussed on the crucial contemporary menace of cyber crime against women and strategies to combat them. The session led by expert Advocate Dr. Shalu Nigam commenced the session by enumerating the need to bridge the digital gap in order to empower women. She shared some eye-opening data highlighting the digital gap between men and women.

Since with accessibility to resources comes power, Adv. Dr. Nigam underlined the main source of cyber crimes is data trafficking. The use of hateful comments and derogatory language against women have increased the incidences of violences on women. Adv. Dr. Nigam in her session untangled the several legal remedies available to fight the cyber- gender based violences. Concluding the session, Adv. Dr. Nigam highlighted the importance of awareness generation in fighting against gender-based cyber crimes.

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Day 7: Collaborative Approaches for Ending Gender-based Violence

On day 7 Adv. Audrey D’Mello delivered a compelling lecture on collaborative approaches for a coordinated response to gender-based violence. Adv. D’Mello discussed the evolving nature of collaboration of women;s rights movements by sharing her experiences of working with Majlis, a legal aid organization. She acknowledged the significance of collaboration and emphasized towards the need for a shift towards ensuring effectiveness of the existing legal framework.

Adv. D’Mello in the session also shared the challenges faced by the legal aid institutions. She discussed the strategies adopted by Majlis in addressing the challenges. Adv. D’Mello highlights a successful example of collaboration within the women’s rights movement, sharing the case study of Christian women’s divorce rights.

Adv. D’Mello describes another significant experience, this time focusing on the implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) in Maharashtra. Adv. D’Mello expresses strong reservations about the counseling offered by police, the judiciary, and the state in domestic violence cases, in the session. Ms. D’Mello concluded the session by emphasizing the crucial role of community connection and outreach in social justice work.

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The next enlightening session for the day was led by Ms Nandini Sarkar. She traced the divide in tackling sexual harassment through POSH policies, going beyond the binaries. Giving a brief overview of the birth of the POSH act, Ms. Sarkar shared statistics to highlight the increased violence against women in India. Ms. Sarkar’s presentation delved into the disturbing reality of sexual harassment persisting as a weapon of the powerful, through the case studies on an MLA in SandeshKhali who allegedly abused his authority and Olympian wrestler Sakshi Malik’s forced retirement.

Ms. Sarkar provided a historical context of the development of a legal framework for addressing violence against women. MS. Sarker in the session defined the several areas that need to be amended within the POSH act in order to ensure its better implementation. Judicial commitment aiding with proactive government initiatives has ensured enforcement of POSH act, Ms. Sarkar delineated. Concluding the session she reiterated that ensuring justice should always prevail.

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Adv Dr. Shalu Nigam led the legal hands of the session focussing on human rights and the challenges of building a welfare state in India. Commencing the session, Adv. Dr. Nigam criticized the neo-liberal approach for eroding food security. Despite progress in areas like literacy, India continues to struggle with malnutrition, highlighting the ongoing need for comprehensive solutions. Adv. Dr. Nigam shared the significant challenges India faces in curbing hunger. The wealth disparity in India extends beyond just numbers. It has devastating consequences, particularly for the most vulnerable, adv. Dr. Nigam highlighted.

Adv. Dr. Nigam shed light on the grim status of food security in India by sharing a study by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). She shared the right to food movement and the consequences of the National Food Security Act. Explaining the provisions of the national food security act, Adv. Dr. Nigam also highlighted the challenges within it.

Adv. Dr. Nigam compared Indian’s welfare approaches in theory and practice. Adv. Dr, Nigam thereby concluded by enumerating the need to gauge progress through human development index.

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Day 8: Action Planning and Next Steps

The Day 8 marked the closing and valedictory session by Mr. Harish Sadani. Mr. Sadani discussed in the session the collaborative efforts and future pathways for ending gender-based violence. Mr. Sadani commenced the session by explaining the meaning of gender, as a social construct shaped by five major subsystems. He further explained that not men, but the patriarchal attitude as  the root cause of gendered violence against women. He thus called for an attitudinal change amongst both men and women.

Mr. Sadani cited four main reasons behind making boys and men an integral part of tackling the issue of gendered violence against women. He also provided a vivid account of the work that his organization Men Against Violence and Abuse MAVA has been carrying out since 1991.

In the closing remarks for the course, Prof. Vibhuti Patel emphasized the need for continual and collaborative efforts in the direction of achieving the goal of ending gender-based violence and achieving a gender just society.

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Acknowledgment: Written and posted by Reetwika Mallick, intern at IMPRI.