DAY FOURTEEN: The Courts of Women – AWHRC, El Taller International and Vimochana. 

Corrine Kumar speaks about Courts of Women, assembled together in tandem with various organisations, that receive testimonials and offer judgments on different forms of violence like war, militarization, feminisation of poverty. They create possibilities for exchange among women’s and human rights groups and organisations in the regions.  

Corrine Kumar

Featured image: “Women of the court” by Nick in exsilio is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The Vision 

this eye  

is not for weeping 

its vision must be unblurred 

though tears are on my face 

its intent is clarity 

it must forget  

nothing 

Let us tell you the story of the Courts of Women: 

It was a dream of many years ago; a dream to break the silence that enshrouds the violence; to rewrite women’s histories, to reclaim our memories; to find new visions for out times. To tell our stories not only of pain, but also of courage and survival; to find another logic; another way to know 

It began in Asia through the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council who together with several other women’s rights groups across the Asia and the Pacific has held nine Courts in the region; India held several Courts of Women; El Taller International, a sister organisation based in Tunisia has taken these Courts to the other regions of the world: Africa, Arab, Central and Latin America. 

The Courts of Women are an unfolding of a space, an imaginary: a horizon that invites us to think, to feel, to challenge, to connect, to dance, to dream. It is an attempt to define a new space for women, and to infuse this space with a new vision, a new politics. It is a gathering of voices and visions of the global south, locating itself in a discourse of dissent: in itself it is a dislocating practice, challenging the new world order of globalisation, crossing lines, breaking new ground: listening to the voices and movements in the margins. 

The Courts of Women seek to weave together the objective reality (through analyses of the issues) with the subjective testimonies of the women; the personal with the political; the logical with the lyrical (through video testimonies, artistic images and poetry); the rational with the intuitive; urging us to discern fresh insights, offering us other ways to know, inviting us to seek deeper layers of knowledge; towards creating a new knowledge paradigm. The Courts of Women are public hearings: the Court is used in a symbolic way. In the Courts, the voices of the victims/ survivors are listened to. Women bring their personal testimonies of violence to the Court: the Courts are sacred spaces where women, speaking in a language of suffering, name the crimes, seeking redress, even reparation. 

It speaks of a new generation of women’s human rights. 

It is an expression of a new imaginary that is finding different ways of speaking truth to power; challenging power, recognising that the concepts and categories enshrined in the ideas and institutions of our times are unable to grasp the violence; violence that is not only escalating, but is also intensifying, the forms are becoming more brutal.  

The Courts of Women also speak truth to the powerless, seeking the conscience of the world, creating other reference points than that of the rule of law, returning ethics to politics. It invites us to the decolonisation of our structures, our minds and of our imaginations; subsumed cultures, subjugated peoples, silenced women reclaiming their political voice and in breaking the silence refusing the conditions by which power maintains its patriarchal control.  

It speaks too of another notion of justice; of a jurisprudence, which bringing individual justice and reparation will also be transformatory for all. A jurisprudence that is able to contextualize and historicise the crimes; moving away from a justice of revenge, a retributive justice, to a justice seeking redress, even reparation; a justice with truth and reconciliation; a restorative justice, healing individuals and communities.  

Through its very diverse voices, the Courts of Women attempt to speak of equality, not in terms of sameness, but in terms of difference; a difference that is rooted in dignity that comes from depths, from the roots a people who have been dispossessed and denigrated.  

The Courts of Women invite us to write another history: 

A counter hegemonic history, a history of the margins. The Courts of Women are a journey of the margins: a journey rather than an imagined destination. A journey in which the dailiness of our lives proffer possibilities for our imaginary, survival and sustenance; for connectedness and community.  

The Courts of Women invite us to dismantle the master’s house; for as the poet Audre Lorde says the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. There is an urgent need to challenge the centralising logic of the master’s narrative implicit in the dominant discourses –of class, of caste, of gender, of race. This dominant logic is logic of violence and exclusion, a logic of civilised and uncivilised, a logic of superior and inferior. 

This centralising logic must be decentered, must be interrupted, even disrupted. 

The Courts of Women speak to this disruption; to this trespass. The Courts of Women are about crossing lines, about breaking new ground, about finding new paradigms of knowledge and of politics. 

The Courts of Women are our dreams of trespass. 

Author’s Bio 

Corrine Kumar is Founder and International Coordinator of the World Courts of Women that work with local organizations to assemble these courts that have a different ethos and emphasis. An assembled Jury receives testimonials and then offer judgments that offer a valuable input into local, national and international campaigns against different forms of violence like war and militarization, monoculturalisation and the feminisation of poverty. They contribute to a growing body of knowledge that will help to question, transform and initiate alternative thinking, institutions and instruments which seek to address the violation of women’s human rights at regional, national and international levels. They create possibilities for exchange among women’s and human rights groups and organisations in the regions.  

Over the years the Courts have grown into a movement that has gathered momentum from the time of its inception in 1992 to the over 40 Courts held in the global south; deepening its vision of politics and power, justice and transformation and the making of violence against women unthinkable.   

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