Promoting Human Rights and Ending Gender-Based Violence

Event Report
Riya Pawar

IMPRI Centre for Human Dignity and Development, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, conducted Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship – Cohort 2.0 Winter’23 on the theme: Promoting Human Rights and Ending Gender-Based Violence. The session was held on the Occasion of Human Rights Day. December 10th, 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the world’s most groundbreaking global pledges: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). 

The chair for the program was Prof Vibhuti PatelVisiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI.

Convenors of the program were Dr Arjun Kumar Director, IMPRI and Dr Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI.

Week 1

Day 1: 25th November, 2023 (Saturday)

The Impact of Law Reform on Gender Rights

Adv Dr. Flavia Agnes, Professor at M.D. Shah College for Women, Mumbai, traced the historical origin and potential role of law in imparting  gender justice. She emphasised on  the contemporary equality struggle.

Dr. Agnes highlighted the intricacies in robust legal frameworks and societal attitudes towards gender issues such as rape, dowry and domestic violence and, highlighted the need to initiate reforms. She also touched upon the aspects of Sex work and judicial paradigm shift.

The discussion overarchingly addressed the persistent issues of legal canvas pertinent to red tapism, ignorance and the imperative for advocacy with audience engagement to enrich the discourse. Dr. Agnes concluded with encouragement for future discussions on Gender Rights and Legal Reforms. She also underscored the importance of active engagement and inclusivity in shaping policies.

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Women’s Movement in India: Historical Evolution and Achievements

Professor Vibhuti Patel, Distinguished Visiting Professor at IMPRI, provided initiated with the introductory session with. She posited, the process of historical evolution and the contribution and role of Women’s Movements in India in addressing Gender-based violence.  

Professor Patel highlighted the need for synergistic actions to combat systemic inequalities prevalent, violence against women, drawing connections between global conflicts, gender-based violence, and the imperative for international cooperation.

Prof. Patel brought to notice the surge in Feminist Movements in 1970s and the evolution of feminist ideaologies and the profound impact on women’s activism.  

The session underscored key shifts and achievements in legal reforms and attitudes towards gender roles while emphasising the ongoing need to address challenges of  violence against women and marginalised communities.

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Week 2

 Day 2: 2nd December 2023 (Saturday)

Framing Human Rights: Beyond Binaries and Stereotypes

The second day unfolded with a brief recap, delivered by Prof. Vibhuti Patel. She traced the fundamental principles of Prof. Vibhuti Patel provided a brief recap of previous sessions and outlined the fundamental principles of human rights, emphasising their interdependence, universality, and unconditional applicability to every individual.

Adv Dr. Albertina Almeida delved into the Indian Human Rights Paradigm, exploring the intricacies of gender, class, caste, ethnicity, and sexuality in violations. She noted  the need  to address issues like trafficking, prostitution discrimination etc. 

She further talked about the nexus between gender, caste, and ethnicity in relation to  crimes. As the session progressed, the discussions  about  tensions between Globalization and Nationalism, ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism, within the framework of human rights were raised.

In conclusion, Dr. Almeida underscored the need for a nuanced understanding of human rights in the Indian context. She urged the audience to assess the state’s obligations and emphasised the need for a more holistic approach to address varied challenges faced by the marginalised section.

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Hands On Session I : Human Rights

This session was initiated by Prof. Shalu Nigam  with a profound exploration into gender-based violence. She delved into India’s Legal History. As the session progressed, she highlighted paramount legal milestones such as the Mathura Rape Case, Vishakha Guidelines, and the Nirbhaya Rape Case, which spurred legislative reforms aimed at fortifying legal provisions against sexual offenses.

She further elaborated upon sections of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, and emphasised the enhanced punishments and the evolving nature of the law in response to societal shifts and growing awareness.

She further discussed the significance of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in providing specialised legal frameworks for crimes against minors. She emphasised on commitment to Child Safety. 

In summation, Prof. Shalu Nigam’s session provided participants with a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the legal landscape surrounding gender-based violence in India.

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Essays & Research Article Writing

The speaker for this session was,  Professor Ceena Paul, Professor, Department of Economics, M.D. Shah College for Women, Mumbai. She started the session with discussions about a systematic roadmap for participants to approach scholarly research, focusing on key steps such as understanding assignment requirements, selecting a relevant research topic, conducting literature review, approaching research questions,  research question, gathering supporting arguments, structuring the research paper, and refining the writing process. She also stressed upon, the need for a nuanced understanding of human rights and legal paradigm to address gender based violence  in India. She posited that practical skills are required for research articulation as well as for empowering participants to contribute to the intersection of law and public policy.

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Week 3

Day 3: 9th December 2023 (Saturday)

Ending Gender Based Violence in India, issues and challenges

Dr. Keerthi Bollineni, President of Vasavya Mahila Mandali, conducted an insightful session on eliminating gender-based violence in India. She traced the deep rooted pariarchy with her analysis and also acknowledged the presence of several legal loopholes. Her discussion encapsulated that limited access to justice, education, and awareness are key challenges to address gender based violence. She also acknowledged the presence of modern-day challenges like violence emerging from techonology. She further advocated the importance of recognising intersectionality in tackling gender-based violence. She added value to the panel by proposing certain actions for inclusive legal framework,  community-based programs, and improved data collection methods. She concluded with addressing gender-based violence and the need for synertetic efforts from institutions for radical norm shifts. 

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Legal Hands-on Session II- Human Rights

The speaker for this session was Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam. She specifically underlined the dowry violence cases and noted a surge in the recent time in these incidences. She stressed on recognising the role of legal measures, education programs, support services, and men’s involvement to combat dowry practices. Dr. Shalu urged the participants initiate an act as an agent for change. The session unfolded with exploration of  multifaceted approaches to bring about radical attitude shifts in the society.  This would further enhance abuse non-tolerance. She also underscored the importance of public awareness systems, education and robust law enforcement. She concluded with highlighting the role of community action to create a discouraging environment for dowry.

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Human Rights & LGBTQIA+ Community in India

The next session on Human Rights &LGBTQIA+ Community in India was conducted by  Dr Aqsa Shaikh who is  Associate Professor, Community Medicine, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences & Research, New Delhi on LGBTQIA+ Community in India.

The session provided a Global and Indian perspective on LGBTQIA+ rights. Dr Aqsa highlighted highlighted key developments such as the Yogyakarta Principles. She underlined the  UN resolutions and decisions by the Indian judiciary like NALSA vs Union of India and the Section 377 read down.The session further addressed the challenge of minimal legal protection against conversion therapy. She also discussed the barriers to marriage and building family. She also help in unravelling the  discriminated medical access. The session emphasised advocating for radical legal action and promoting awareness about LGBTQIIA+ fundamental rights.

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Hands On Session III : Human Rights

Dr. Shalu Nigam discussed the interplay of poverty, inequality, and starvation from a human rights approach. She stressed on the need for legal entitlements and state accountability to counter injustice towards marginalised sections in India.  

Dr Nigam questioned the prevalent resource allocation structure by the government.  She highlighted the role of the state for the overarching welfare of marginalised citizens. She further discussed the need to include basic necessities as fundamental rights under the constitution in order to address unfair consequences.  The session urged from ‘freebies’ to discussing human development and alleviating poverty. To conclude, Dr Shalu talked about the importance of upholding rights of marginalised communities and vulnerable groups.

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Week 4

Day 5: 16th December 2023 (Saturday)

Addressing Gender-based Violence & the Way Forward

The session on Addressing Gender-based Violence & the Way Forward was conducted by ElsaMarie D’Silva’s. She presented her views on targeting gender-based violence. She mentioned the personal experiences and mainstream narrative to support sensitising the audience about gender-based violence issues. She raised the issue of under-reporting of incidents as a serious threat to access law.

As the session progressed, she proposed a Safe City for efficient inclusivity and justice. She put forth the idea of crowd mapping  a crowd-mapping platform to ameliorate the data gap and create safer spaces. While navigating forms of violence, including technology-facilitated GBV, she noted the favour to these behaviours under patriarchy.She encapsulated the importance of the Safe Cities model to uphold and create safety barriers for vulnerables. ElsaMarie also highlighted the role of youth in delivering gender justice.

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Hands On Session IV : Gender Based Violence

Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam gave a thorough talk on gender dynamics in Indian courts, emphasising the need to combat gender-based violence (GBV) and advance inclusivity. She cited recent efforts to combat prejudices and promote gender-sensitive language, such as the Supreme Court’s handbook. In order to address the underrepresentation of women in the judiciary and the influence of societal biases on judicial decisions, Dr. Nigam stressed the necessity of structural reforms. Notwithstanding encouraging advancements, problems still exist, as seen by situations that reinforce negative prejudices. She emphasised the significance of comprehensive strategies, such as cultural changes, legal reforms, and raised awareness, in order to effectively address GBV and foster a more encouraging atmosphere for women in the legal field.

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Day 6: 23rd December 2023 (Saturday)

Empowering Change: Insights on Forensic Medicine, Gender-Based Violence, and Human Rights

The session Empowering Change: Insights on Forensic Medicine, Gender-Based Violence, and Human Rights was conducted by Professor Vina Vaswani, Director of the Center for Ethics at Yenepoya University. She delivered the concluding address. She lauded the program’s commitment to knowledge dissemination.  She stressed on the interplay of forensic science and gender-based violence, further emphasising the historical marginalisation of women and transgender.

Professor Vaswani discussed issues with the medical-legal system, such as how context is overlooked in situations involving domestic abuse. In addition to pointing out biases in law enforcement, she promoted a comprehensive approach to forensic investigations and called for group action to destroy societal preconceptions. The plea for education, awareness, and empowerment to advance human rights—especially for women and young girls—was made at the end of the session. The lecture by Professor Vaswani emphasised the necessity of structural change in combating gender-based violence and advancing human dignity. 

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Acknowledgment: This event report is written by Riya Pawar