This is a students’ initiative, and is guided by the Women’s Studies Centre. Students organize various kinds of activities – such as lectures, talks and discussion sessions with experts; documentary and film screenings; group discussion and debates; etc. The activities undertaken by the Gender Studies Cell in the year 2015-16 are presented below.
- Inaugural Session for the year 2015-16
Date: 20th July, 2016
The session saw the attendance of around 40 students. Many important issues like gender stereotypes, discrimination etc. were discussed. The session began with the fundamental question of difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. The students responded to queries with enthusiasm and vigour. The student coordinators Chandni Chawla, Sangh Rakshita and Soham Goswami made a presentation explaining the structure of the ILS Gender Studies Cell, past activities and the modus operandi for the following year. Ideas for research projects and blog for the Gender Studies Cell were floated and discussed. Students from different batches shared interesting perspectives on feminism, sexual harassment and gender sensitization. The film ‘Bombay Talkies’ was screened which was followed by a discussion on social stereotypes and pressures making it difficult for people to accept their sexuality. The idea of coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation was discussed.
At the end of the session, many students expressed their willingness to participate in the cell’s activities and contribute to the blog.
- Discussing Obergefell V. Hodges
Date: 27th July, 2015
40 students attended this session.It was conducted in two parts- a presentation on the Obergefell v. Hodges judgement (by the SCOTUS which legalised same sex marriages in all states of the USA) by Chandni Chawla which was then followed by a discussion on the constitutionality of the judgement and a parallel was drawn to the Indian scenario. Chandni Chawla, Sangh Rakshita and Soham Goswami moderated the discussion. The presentation gave a background of the facts of the case, the arguments put forth and traced the journey of the changing judicial stance from Bowers v. Hardwick (criminalisation of sodomy and other acts) to Turney v Safley (right to marry for prisoners) and Lawrence v. Texas (decriminalisation of same sex intimacy). The majority opinion as well as the dissent opinion was discussed in detail which included theories of marriage, principles of privacy, liberty and dignity, judicial overreach, doctrine of separation of powers, fundamental right to marry, the background of the judges and possibility of plural marriages. The students’ support was divided between the majority and dissent opinion. A parallel was drawn to the decisions of the Delhi High Court (Naz foundation case) and Supreme Court (Suresh Kumar Koushal) in matter of constitutionality of Sec. 377 of The IPC. Possible alternate recourses like petition to MPs to bring about legislative changes were also discussed. A heated debate followed on the need of judicial restraint and judicial activism vis a vis judicial adventurism. Students also expressed concerns over sacrificing liberty at the altar of systematic functioning of the organs of the state. Students also questioned the impact that same sex parents would have on the sexual orientation of the child which opened gates for disparate views on origin of sexual orientation. The two hour session ended with most students zealously voicing their support for the SCOTUS judgement while some maintained their stance of the need to uphold separation of powers in tandem with the dissenting opinion.
- Discussing marriage and gender dynamics
Date: 10th August 2015
It was an interactive session among 15 participants about how gender dynamics play such a decisive role in the institution of Marriage. The session was conducted in two parts – a presentation by Nidhi on the “Origin of Marriage and its evolution through the ages”, followed by a presentation on the “Need of Marriage and how Gender affects this institution” by Sangh Rakshita, interspersed with active discussion among the students present.
The first presentation traced the Origin of Marriage in Europe as well as India. Beginning with Europe, the discussion began from how, earlier, the women were discriminated against once they were married by being denied employment but then, the Work Revolution slowly changed that attitude when women started to become the breadwinners of their families. The Education Revolution brought about huge change with increase and improvement in education thus opening up more opportunities for women. However none of these revolutions were complete in nature and discrimination continued to be rampant in society. The focus then shifted to differences and similarities in Islamic and Hindu concepts of Marriage and the roles that a man and woman play respectively in these unions like how in the Hindu manuscripts the functions of a woman are to act as a servant, advisor, mother and lover and according to Islamic decrees the husband is financially responsible for the wife while it’s the wife’s duty to safeguard his possessions.
The second presentation then questioned the actual Need of Marriage in society in the past, present and future. Generally everyone agreed on the fact that in the past it was a patriarchal tool of society and it did and still does perpetrate Gender Roles which become very hard to counter and break out of. The session concluded by everyone reaching a consensus that, broader social changes are required in the institution of marriage with respect to gender roles, same sex relationships, division and right to property, all of which can be truly achieved by encouraging widespread effective education and creating awareness and unbiased acceptance among society today.
- Discussing the President Vs Hugo case – Guest Lecture by Justice Zakerie Yacoob
Date: 17th August, 2015
Gender studies cell of ILS Law College organized a seminar discussing the President vs Hugo case of the South African constitutional court, which was attended by 30 students. Justice Zakerie Yakoob, former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, was invited to provide his valuable inputs. Welcoming Justice Yakoob to the seminar, the main presenter, Chandni Chawla, introduced the topic.
To familiarize the audience with the case, the moderators- Sangh Rakshita, Soham Goswami, Trishita Mukherjee of 4th BSL LLB discussed the facts of the case, the assenting opinion and the dissenting opinion. Delving into the facts of the case we found that the problem started when the South African president signed a document Presidential Act Number 17 in which special remission was granted to a certain categories of prisoners, the relevant category being ‘all mothers who had minor children under the age of 12’. Peter Hugo was a single father with a child under 12 years of age and he was incarcerated for a sentence of fifteen and a half years. Naturally he did not get the clemency that the other female prisoners got therefore he contended the act. His appeal was upheld by the Durban and Coast local division but its decision was later rescinded by the constitutional court in the president vs Hugo case. The two primary issues of the case which the students discussed were whether the discrimination was unfair and whether the powers of president under section 82 (1) (k) were subject to section 8 of the interim constitution. Regarding the question of unfair discrimination one opinion from the audience came that a mother’s role was very different from that of a father in child rearing and it was the mother who was always the primary caregiver. Further it was held that the number of male prisoners far outweighed the female prisoners falling in that category. Also the act merely wished to give an advantage to the women, it in no way discriminated against the men. Moreover it was also discussed that the act did not preclude the male prisoners from applying to the president for remission of their sentence under special circumstances. Next the cell discussed whether Rule Equality should be applied or Result Equality. While the moderator was talking about the dissenting opinion about how the act entrenched the stereotypical roles of a mother and father and reestablished a woman’s place in the home, Justice Yakoob raised a very pertinent question about whether justice should be applied in terms of realities as they are or in terms of an abstract idea. Further the dissenting views were taken forward and the students agreed that there had been discrimination against men and the impact was harmful but not severe therefore it was not called unfair discrimination. Also the background of the jury and its impact on the decision were deliberated upon in detail. The students were firm that child rearing was a conjoint responsibility of the mother and father and fathers could be primary caregivers. Next the audience conversed about paternity leave and how the government actually recognized a father’s role by granting P.L. The need for extending the pardon to single fathers was also discussed.
While the audience preferred to stick to the utopian idea of gender equality and equality between a mother and father’s role, Ma’am Anuradha Yakoob reminded the students about the reality of the situation where primarily women were the caregivers. While most of the students realized that in the process of chasing after an abstract idea one could not ignore the needs of a suppressed section, some remained firm on the need for egalitarian laws for an egalitarian society. The riveting debate came to an end with Justice Yakoob concluding the argument and exclaiming that legal principles and reality had to work hand in hand. He also stressed on the importance of asking the right questions to arrive on the correct solutions. The students filed out of the room as on, everyone mulling over everything they learned from the session and impassioned to work hard towards an ideal social order.
- Movie screening – Persopolis
Date: 21st September, 2015
It is a critically acclaimed French- Iranian- American film released in 2007. It has received accolades globally as being a fierce and honest account of the Iranian Revolution from the point of view of a young girl. The film provides an honest, humorous and thought-provoking perspective of war, peace, political distress, social movements and protests surrounding the same and its impact on ordinary life course of a young Iranian. The screening was attended by many students from the 1st and 2nd year. The screening was followed by a short and interesting discussion and critique on the film. The discussion was moderated by Soham Goswami from III BA.LLB. All the students who attended the session were impressed by the subtlety with which the issues in the film were portrayed. Also, everyone felt they had a lot to take back from the film.
- Volunteer orientation by Bhumi (NGO)
Date: 24th August, 2015
Mr. Sai Krishnan, a youth volunteer of an NGO called Bhumi oriented 30 students who attended the session. He began the session with a presentation on Bhumi t explained the vision and mission of the organization. Bhumi is one of India’s largest independent and youth volunteered non-profit organizations.
It was started by a youth group in 2006. It is based in Chennai and works in various other cities. Their main aim is to change society as it is today and build a better India for tomorrow. The organization provides the socially-conscious youth, a platform to serve society and to bridge the gap between the educated and uneducated youth. They hold classes for children at various Shelter homes and slum/village community centers.
He then explained the process of becoming a volunteer with Bhumi:
- Volunteers need to be below the age of 30
- After registration, before one gets to choose his/her project, centre and timings of volunteering, they need to attend an orientation to start contributing through Bhumi.
- Have to devote a minimum of two hours every weekend.
- Two kinds of Courses:
- Educative course-IGNITE where a volunteer for this project needs to teach for a minimum period of one year for imparting‘basic’ knowledge and understanding in subjects like Science and Robotics, Mathematics, English, Computers etc., and developing tools to make learning easier and fun and also have art, dance, music and sports included in their curriculum. This was a very attractive prospect and everybody wanted to volunteer for it but the students in unison expressed their concern over the month long semester breaks in between. Mr. Sai Krishnan then brought to our attention the short term courses.
- Short term volunteering course-CATALYZE where volunteers work together as a team to spread awareness about important aspects of day to day life like Traffic rules, cleanliness etc. He then spoke about their dedicated endeavors to make the under privileged children attend school and how volunteers would make enquires in schools about implementation of RTE. He then asked the students about their knowledge of RTE to which the moderator Sangh Rakshita responded by giving a gist of the Act.
The session inspired the students immensely. It not only drew their attention to RTE and other socially significant aspects of day to day life but also made an impact on their minds. The session ended with the students expressing their eagerness to be a part of Bhumi and help uphold their motto
‘Change Today … Change Tomorrow’
- Movie screening – Mona Lisa Smile
Date: 18th January, 2016
The film Mona Lisa Smile was screened as a part of the Gender Studies Cell event on the 18th January 2016. The screening was attended by about 15 to 20 students spread across all batches. The film is about a newly joined ‘History of Arts’ professor at Wellesley College, a conservative women’s private liberal arts college in Massachusetts, and her journey there to make a difference and influence the next generation of women. The Story revolves around the debacles of this professor when encountering perceptions and stereotypes within the grand corridors of the reputed institution. It also portrays society from the perspective of a non-conformist outspoken woman who wishes to challenge that the roles women are traditionally assigned as per the patriarchal gender norms.
The session was followed by a short yet comprehensive discussion on the film. The students participating expressed their opinions on issues of social conformity, stereotypes, social deviance and change. The session was a highly engaging and informative one. Themes such as marriage and gender norms were discussed. The film portrays women who are conditioned into believing in the necessity to get married immediately post-graduation. The discussion also dealt with the similarity between the film and the current scenario in India. Sitting cross legged, classes on husband behaviour, controversy on selling contraceptives in school etc. explain the patriarchal outlook in the film which the protagonist had to face. The film was highly relatable to the audience and led to a meaningful discussion.
- Female genital mutilation
Date: 29th February, 2016
This was a discussion among students facilitated by- Nidhi Gupta and Shreya Kunwar, I B.A.LL.B. They began the session by addressing the concept of genital mutilation and the reasons for conducting genital mutilation on humans. Statistics show that around 200 million girls and women alive have undergone FGM; however, it is not possible to show statistics for male circumcision due to its commonplace occurrence. Furthermore, they discussed the psychosexual and cultural reasons for such practices. Discussions ranged from the geographical regions where genital mutilation is practiced to the possible implications on individual and public health. Further, the various degrees of genital mutilation were explained.
A case study of the Bohra Muslims (a Shi’a subsect) of Mumbai was taken; the case of Masooma, a Bohra woman was discussed who faced FGM as a young girl.
Further, a discussion into human rights instruments and the provisions of the Indian Constitution was entered into. Nidhi and Shreya explained as to how the practice could not possibly be protected by the rights under Part III. The choice v. control debate was entered into, where, assuming due consent, it is questioned as to should such a practice be allowed.
Post the presentation, the students present argued several issues, such as bodily integrity and the public health aspect of circumcision and female genital mutilation. The session closed with comments by the Cell members and Rakshita thanking everyone for their participation.