Press Communique

Conference on addressing racial and gender based violence

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Speaking for Diversity, Equality and Dignity : International Conference on addressing racial and gender based violence.

The Universal Declaration of Human rights begins with an emphasis on innate freedom and equality of human beings in dignity and rights. Despite a worldwide consensus on respecting human rights, racial discrimination has had a detrimental impact on the world’s ethnic minorities. Many of inter ethnic conflicts around the world have led to large scale destruction and death, with women bearing the brunt of conflict and sexual violence used as a political weapon.

Addressing these developments and with the resolve to challenge race and gender based violence, a 2 day International Conference on Diversity, Gender and Inclusion was organised along with a Photo Exhibition showcasing untold,unheard and unseen stories of victims of gender and racial violence and simultaneously, demonstrating the country’s colourful diversity. A pre launch of seminal research and writing based on the theme was also released.

The conference took off with a welcome note by Ms. Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI), who expressed that the journey of organising this conference is one of conviction and courage. This was followed by a thoughtful inauguratory session where Cruz Mariela Alvarez, the Ambassador of Republic of Costa Rica and the Guest of Honour for the event, began by exclaiming her happiness of being a part of the conference and sharing the message of equality and diversity.

She expressed that everything that happens in India has a parallel in Latin America, as patriarchy exists everywhere. She further elaborated on the significance of men and women joining hands together as part of the new century. She ended her talk by saying that she was delighted to celebrate her birthday as a participant in the conference.

Ms. Cecilia Costa, cooperation Manager at the European Union Delegation to India, asserted that every person who suffers from sexual violence deserves a comprehensive treatment. She is looking forward to an effective action plan and hopes that CAFI and EU can continue to work for the cause, arm in arm.

Anju Talukdar, Director of Multiple Action Research Group, stressed on how racial discrimination is not only limited to people coming from the North East in Delhi, but experienced across the country. She highlighted that Indians are both victims and perpetrators of racism, adding that we are just more aware when we face it.

Emphasising on the coexistence of diversity and democracy, Dr Krishna Menon, Dean of School of Human Studies at Ambedkar University, suggested that democracy needs to widen its ambit and move from tolerance to recognition of plurality.

Further on, sessions addressing gender based violence in conflict areas included Martha Saxton ,a professor from the United States, who ,while speaking about violence experienced by women during ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia, highlighted how women are targeted not only for ethnic or racial reasons but also because they are very often poor in conflict regions.

Other than stressing on the role of grassroots workers and NGOs in creating effective laws for protecting women from violence, Martha specially mentioned the recent “Me Too” and “Stand Up” movement, wherein more and more women have come out to report and share experiences of sexual violence and harassment. She underlined the lack of a comfortable vocabulary about sex and highlighted the need for men and women to talk about what is coercion. She said “ We grow up learning the biology of sex but we don’t really learn how to talk to each other about it. We need to develop a way of speaking about sex, and be better companions to each other.”

Speaking on the limitation of forming women’s rights for security and the UNSC Resolution 1325 on women,peace and security, Dr Shweta Singh, Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations at SAU, underlined the importance of localising the UN led normative agendas and recognising the relevant issues of intersectionality, history and political inequality, particularly in South Asia.

She stressed on problematising gender as a homogenous category, expressed how experiences of women in the Global South are different from those in the Global North and suggested for adoption of an intersectional frame,: bringing in caste, class, religion and race to understand the impact of conflict on women. Dr. Shweta also expressed that women in South Asia are controlled actors in conflict zones, whose agency and capacities are clipped. They are doubly victimised by mechanisms of State (militarisation, punitive action,etc) as well as Society ( cultural taboos, religious practices,etc).

Media, often considered as the fourth pillar of democracy, was also a topic of discussion with reference to how instances on racial discrimination and sexual violence in relation to the North East are reported. Ms Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, a well known journalist and Deputy Director of the Wire, expressed that the role of media is to transform the fears and concerns on ground, to help amplify the distress and anxiety North Easterners face and bring them out in newspapers and to the doors of people. She also explained that by recognising the existence of racial discrimination in india different from discrimination on caste and class basis , the media didn’t do people of north east any favour. It only played its role in pointing out the reality which should be on its social agenda anyway.

Deliberating particularly in the context of North East India, Mr. Ravindar Pal Singh, a former senior fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, highlighted the difference between sexual violence as a social crime and rape being used as a political weapon. Vulnerability in the north East, he explained, also stems from the divisions existing in the community; tribals vs non tribals or main landers vs outsiders, which get strengthened in conflicts.

Dr. Lianboi Vaiphei, professor of political science at DU, raised an interesting point about instances of prejudices against the North Easterners in mainstream Indian Cinema and questioned as to why wasn’t a north Easterner casted as Mary Kom for the biographical drama. She also expressed how Northeastern women have been seen as women with easy virtues in mainland India and any crime against a northeast woman is seen as justifying lesson to be taught.

The two day conference saw various discussions around deep rooted discrimination in the country, and analysing conflict from a gendered lens. Control Arms Foundation of India and Manipur Women Gun Survivor’s Network in collaboration with Multiple Action Research Group and support from European Union organised this International Conference.The conference brought together scholars who are working on deepening research to understand race and gender based violence in the country and the world, develop innovative strategies to end this discrimination and advocate for policy change.

Participants in the conference included global and regional civil society organisations, regional and global policy makers, students,lawyers, law enforcement agencies and other relevant stakeholders. All of the participants came together to sign a Memorandum appealing the President to urgently address the issue of Racial and Sexual Violence. 


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