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.   

DAY THIRTEEN: Fursat ki Fizayen: a reclamation of space, rights and aspirations

Divya Chopra and Rwitee Mandal illuminates the importance of accessible spaces for women, especially in urban sites which are often planned with masculine vision and makes these spaces unsafe and non-inclusive for women.

Divya Chopra and Rwitee Mandal 

Featured image: ‘Top view of the terrace’ at Fursat ki Fizayen, credits to authors

Gender Biased Violence (GBV), especially Violence Against Women (VAW), is a living reality for migrant women living in resettlement colonies. Dislocation to under-resourced peripheries of cities is an iniquitous outcome of the urbanization process which deeply and disproportionately affects women who constitute almost 67% of the migrant population (Census of India 2011). While the underlying causes of GBV are rooted in patriarchal relations, the impacts of urban migration on gender compound those relations. Violence Against Women varies according to geographical location and scale as well as various other causal and contextual processes in cities. Migration particularly has deep ramifications on the lives of women by impacting their livelihoods, access to opportunities, resources, services and their ‘right to the city.’ Further, the physical configuration of urban areas planned with a masculine vision renders urban spaces unsafe, inaccessible, and non-inclusive. 

Within this larger discourse on GBV, VAW, and urban migration, ‘Fursat ki Fizayen’, a socially engaged art project supported by Khoj International Artists’ Association, engaged with the spatial realities of young, single, working women living at the margins – geographically, socially and economically – and artistically interpreted the multiple narratives around women’s leisure in the visible public domain, thereby encouraging women’s participation in public space.

The project explored the concept of leisure as a way of acknowledging women’s right to leisure time for personal growth as well as mental and physical well-being; as a way of addressing women’s right to leisure spaces in the city; and together with such an approach, contributed towards building gender inclusive cities. 

The project site, Madanpur Khadar, is a peri-urban, resettlement colony in Delhi, located along the southern banks of River Yamuna, where provisions of basic urban services and amenities are grossly inadequate. Open spaces within this tightly packed, built-to-edge, lower income neighbourhood are heavily gendered, unsafe, and hence inaccessible, discouraging young girls and women from enjoying these spaces. Instead, they avoid these spaces completely and remain invisible in their own neighbourhood.

Lacking access to physical leisure spaces, but having access to smartphones, they escape into a virtual space to live an alternative reality of public life. Through the construction and projection of self in an anonymous digital realm, they express their aspiration for leisure without being judged or afraid. Thus, providing access to a safe space where young women could enjoy leisure time without the fear of harassment or violence became the primary objective of the project.  

Leisure for women in cities, often determined by the intersection of gender with other identities, produce exclusion in complex ways. It is seen when women spend their leisure time, they construct their identities using space to express themselves and interact with others. Fursat ki Fizayen explored this dialectical relationship between leisure and space by engaging young, single, working women to reflect on how they think and construct their own images in the public domain. Participatory place-making and image-making being powerful tools for social empowerment were used to foster ownership and belongingness for their created environments. Stories of daily negotiations and contestations were curated to understand the lived experiences and spatial realities of these young women who access the site of power – the public domain – while exploring and reclaiming spaces for leisure in their own unique ways. Aspects of time, space and nature of leisure were discussed to co-design and co-produce leisure spaces with them. Their stories were used to understand and question the ways in which the world affects women at leisure. 

Among the many open spaces imagined and desired for at the neighbourhood, precinct, and city level, a space often forgotten, underutilized, and seldom used for leisure – terrace – emerged as the space of relief and escape from the confines of the four walls. Our facilitation partner Jagori provided the terrace at their community office at Madanpur Khadar for intervention.

The terrace at Jagori was also seen as a safe, familiar, and accessible space. Addressing multiple binaries, this space was reimagined as a personal yet collective, private yet public, internal yet external, an open-to-sky elevated space with lots of plants, seating, lights, decorations, music, mirrors, games (carrom, hopscotch, skipping), exercise equipment, a patch for a kitchen garden and various backdrops for selfies.

A central feature of the terrace, a colourful wall mural, was conceptualized along with the girls who co-created the mural along with two young artists. Together with the girls, the artists painted each of the girls’ avatars in joyful colours, enjoying both productive and non-productive means of leisure – reading, singing, working out, taking selfies, dressing up or just watching the world go by.  

Project team with group of girls. Image credits to authors.

The mural also strongly represents women’s right to experience leisure freely without the fear of harassment or violence. Since the young women have a strong digital presence, a Wi-Fi connection with boosters, charging points and speakers have been installed along with the creation of a beautiful backdrop for video calls/meetings, selfies/reels. A QR code printed on the wall connects the visitors to our Instagram page. The reclaimed terrace now has become a space for me-time, meet-ups and celebrations. 

Having an afterlife, way beyond the duration and scope of the intervention, was an inherent quality of the project and its associations. The women appropriated the space by growing their kitchen gardens, making their decorations, creating their selfie backdrops, holding their celebrations, and bringing along more women and girls to enjoy that space. The vibrant terrace continues to be used in creative ways to experience leisure by the community women. This terrace was built as a prototype that could be easily replicated allowing for additions and alterations. We hope it can trigger similar ideas to make use of underutilized terrace spaces to their full potential using local skill sets, locally produced products and locally available materials – which are low-cost, sustainable and support local businesses.

Together, these terraces could fulfil the need for accessible, and familiar spaces which women can access freely and use for personal and collective time, without fear of harassment and violence. 

Authors’ Bios

Divya and Rwitee are spatial design practitioners, researchers and educators based out of Delhi/Gurgaon. 

Divya’s practice primarily delves into themes of Inclusive Cities, Informality and Migration, Socio-spatial Justice and Urbanising Rural. Her current research pursuits revolve around formulating an integrated urban development framework that allows for a collaborative and structured way of envisioning, co-designing and co-producing our cities. She has been working across community partnered multidisciplinary engagements with a focus on placemaking through participatory art and co-design methods. She has been actively involved with the Urban Form Lab at the Urban Design programme at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi. 

Rwitee is a Senior Program Manager at Safetipin, a social enterprise which uses technology to collect spatial data in order to make cities safer and inclusive for women and others. She has been working across multidisciplinary domains with a focus on gender-responsive spaces and placemaking through participatory art and co-design methods. She mentors the Social Urbanism Lab at the postgraduate Urban Design programme of the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi. 

DAY TEN: Dowry abuse and exit trafficking in the transnational context  

Sara Singh sits down with Prof Manjula O’Connor, psychiatrist, researcher and advocate, to talk about the issue of dowry abuse in the transnational context and the use of exit trafficking by perpetrators to abandon victim-survivors overseas.

Sara Singh and Manjula O’Connor

Featured image: Couple crossing last fingers, reproduced from Shutterstock.

Sara Singh sits down with psychiatrist, researcher and advocate Professor Manjula O’Connor to talk about dowry abuse in the transnational context and the use of exit trafficking by perpetrators to abandon victim-survivors overseas.

In recent years, there has been growing awareness amongst policymakers, service providers and community members in Australia of the issue of dowry abuse. Defined as the use of ‘coercion, violence or harassment associated with the giving or receiving of dowry at any time before, during or after marriage’, dowry abuse is a form of domestic and family violence (DFV) that disproportionately affects women, girls and their families.

Whilst historically the practice of dowry in Indian societies was intended as a means of empowering women and providing them with a measure of economic and financial security as they began a new chapter in their lives as married women, in modern times the practice has been exploited by many individuals who utilise it as a tool for obtaining and/or accumulating wealth and money.

Research has highlighted how men and their families may make excessive demands for dowry and perpetrate various forms of abuse against women and their families to coerce them to accede to their dowry demands. At the same time, perpetrators may abuse women in retaliation for providing what they perceive to be ‘inadequate’ or ‘insufficient’ dowry.

“If the groom or his family believe that the amount of dowry given was not sufficient, then that starts to give rise to all kinds of abuse, including demands and extortion”, says O’Connor, who has spent more than a decade supporting women who have experienced dowry abuse in Australia.

According to O’Connor, one of the main factors facilitating the perpetration of dowry abuse is the power imbalance that often exists between perpetrators and victim-survivors. In transnational marriages, this power imbalance is often heightened, creating further opportunities for abuse. Research has highlighted how globalisation and international migration have generated and reinforced inequalities in power, status and socioeconomic opportunities between countries and regions. These inequalities can have implications for marriage and dowry negotiations.

O’Connor highlights how non-resident Indian (NRI; i.e., an individual with Indian citizenship who has migrated to a foreign country) men living in Australia may be perceived by residents in their country of origin as highly attractive candidates for marriage due to their NRI status and the potential social and economic opportunities that their residency in Australia provides. In these circumstances, NRI men may leverage their Australian residency status to demand greater dowry from women and their families. “The marriage prospect of an Australian resident back in South Asia…for example in India, they are very good…” says O’Connor. “They are seen to be far superior as compared to the local grooms and that increases the value of the groom in terms of the dowry amount.”

In many cases of dowry abuse in transnational contexts, the victim-survivor may also be reliant on the perpetrator for visa sponsorship into the country the perpetrator is residing in. This dynamic contributes to the power imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim-survivor, creating further avenues for abuse. 

O’Connor notes how perpetrators, for there may be multiple, may exploit their position as the victim-survivor’s visa sponsor to demand additional dowry. These demands may be reinforced by threats by the perpetrator to withdraw their sponsorship of the victim-survivor’s visa if the victim-survivor does not accede to the perpetrator’s demands. In this way, perpetrators coerce and control victim-survivors, and instil a sense of fear in them.

O’Connor also highlights cases where the perpetrator has, after receiving large amounts of dowry from the victim-survivor and her family, tricked or coerced the victim-survivor to return to her country of origin, and then abandoned her there and withdrawn sponsorship of her visa, leaving her unable to re-enter Australia. “What I have seen is that there are some grooms who are able to fraudulently send their wife back home under false pretense, and when she’s there, have removed their sponsorship and cut off all connections with her and confiscated the dowry given”, says O’Connor.

This tactic of deceiving or coercing victim-survivors to return to their country of origin, and subsequently abandoning them there, is termed ‘exit trafficking’. Defined as the use of coercion, threat or deception to make an individual leave the country, exit trafficking is a criminal offence in Australia (see s 271.2(1A), Sch 1, Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)), with offenders liable to a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment if found guilty of the offence.

Despite the criminalisation of exit trafficking in Australia, however, community awareness around the issue remains low. Victim-survivors of exit trafficking are often unaware that the perpetrator’s conduct amounts to a criminal offence and that they can be supported to legally re-enter Australia.

“Most women do not know that they are able to return back to Australia under this particular law which says that exit trafficking is illegal and a criminal offence”, states O’Connor.

Currently, multiple services in Australia assist victim-survivors of exit trafficking. The Australian Federal Police (AFP), for example, investigates cases of exit trafficking, supports victim-survivors, and offers referrals to other relevant support services. One such support service is the Australian Red Cross, which is funded by the Department of Social Services to run a support program for individuals who have experienced trafficking. The ultimate decision around whether a victim-survivor of exit trafficking can stay in Australia rests with the Department of Home Affairs.

As O’Connor notes, more work needs to be done to develop community awareness around the issue of exit trafficking in the context of dowry abuse, so that victim-survivors are aware of their legal rights under Australian law and can access appropriate services for support and assistance. “I think that the most important thing is education of the community and women”, says O’Connor. “It’s very important that [victim-survivors] are given the information that in the case of domestic violence or any threats of trafficking that they should connect with the police and relevant services straightaway”.

Authors’ bios 

Manjula O’Connor is a Psychiatrist with four decades of experience. She is also an applied researcher and a published author. Her primary area of interest for past 10 years has been family violence and mental health in immigrant communities. She chairs the Royal Australian NZ College of Psychiatrists Family Violence Psychiatry Network and is an Honorary Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, as well as an Adjunct Professor at the UNSW School of Social Sciences. Manjula co-founded the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health in 2012 and advocates against family violence in immigrant communities. Manjula led the public dowry abuse campaign in Australia that led to the inclusion of laws against dowry abuse in the Victorian Family Violence Protection Act and triggered the Federal Senate Enquiry into dowry abuse. She is a member of South Asian Community Ministerial Advisory Council, and aa White Ribbon Advocate. Manjula’s work has been cited in the Victorian Parliament and the Federal Australian Parliament several times. Manjula was a member of the steering group that organised the Second National Dowry Abuse Summit.  

Sara Singh is a Research Assistant at the Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN), UNSW Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice from UNSW and has worked across various research projects in the fields of criminology and social work. She is interested in research aimed at informing policy development and best practice responses to individuals and communities impacted by gendered violence and has undertaken research in areas such as domestic and family violence, and economic and financial abuse. In 2020, Sara was awarded a UNSW Scientia PhD scholarship. Her PhD research explores perceptions and experiences of dowry and dowry abuse of women from Indian communities in Australia.  

DAY EIGHT: Livelihoods Collectives – A safe space for refugee women in India 

Hamsa Vijayaraghavan from Migration and Asylum Project writes about refugee women’s needs to find a safe space and the small livelihoods projects, such as Silaiwali, a local social enterprise that employs refugee women as artisans.

Hamsa Vijayaraghavan

Featured image: Refugee women creating handmade artefacts as part of the small livelihoods project  by Hamsa Vijayaraghavan

“We are all refugees here, our lives in this country are difficult. When we come out of our homes to work at the centre, we sit and laugh and work together, and learn from each other…it makes our troubles lighter”. 

In India, the world’s largest democracy, a country that has prided itself on its warm treatment of its guests, refugees continue to be persona non grata. In the absence of a specific law that regulates asylum, they are simply “illegal aliens” with no legal status or socio-economic rights. Women make up over half of the total refugee population and are even more vulnerable within this group; they are often traumatized by past experiences of sexual violence and conflict during transit. It is often only much later that they find the words to speak about their past, if at all. In the aftermath of the global pandemic that has increased the burdens of isolation, increased the risk of exposure to sexual and gender-based violence, and reduced access to support networks and services, these women are now more vulnerable than ever.  

The most immediate challenge for refugee women is that of providing for their families. For many of these women, they find themselves to be in a position of caretaker as well as provider for the first time. Many arrive in India as single heads of families, having been forced to flee their countries after the death or disappearance of male family members. The factors that drive sexual exploitation – engendered patriarchal norms, poverty, low literacy, lack of human rights protections, and personal history of gender-based violence – are all amplified for refugee women. There have been recorded instances of refugee women and girls forced into survival sex in the country of asylum due to the almost total unavailability of work avenues for them.  

Against this backdrop, the opportunity to find a safe place where they can earn a decent living is an almost unachievable dream for these women. Most of these women, raised in conflict-ridden countries, have not had the opportunity to go outside the house to earn the formal qualifications that almost all employers in India ask for, nor can they demonstrate the work experience that might help them make up for lack of a degree nor the language skills to articulate their suitability for available jobs. However, at my organisation, Migration and Asylum Project, we have the opportunity, as legal advisors, to interact closely with them; we see that these are women who have survived despite the odds, and need but a small push in the right direction to thrive.  

In the course of our work, we have spoken to over 2000 survivors of gender-based violence, women who have risen above their trauma and are now raising their families in a foreign land that offers so little by way of support, driven by nothing more than sheer determination to ensure that their future children have better opportunities than they were given.

We hope to encourage this spirit with a very small livelihoods project that we run in collaboration with Silaiwali, a local social enterprise that employs refugee women as artisans to produce high-quality handmade artefacts out of waste fabric sourced from clothing manufacturers.  

Our objective simply is to provide a healing space for the women, a place that they can come to for safety and comfort, while also ensuring that they can engage their own creativity and strengths to acquire the skills and earnings that they need to live with dignity and to rebuild their lives, one stitch at a time. Many of these women already come with skills in traditional crafts such as embroidery, handed down from previous generations. At Silaiwali, they get to use their talent to provide for their families and also receive training to enhance ancillary skills such as tailoring, business and management.  

Needless to say, most are thankful to step out of their homes – often cramped spaces with too many people and too few resources – and into a space where they are amongst friendly faces that know what it takes for them to show up and carry on. There are also many empirical studies that suggest a mindfulness practice such as embroidery can have a therapeutic effect on the mind and body, and is effective in reducing the stress, anxiety and depression induced by severe trauma.  

This project, small in scale and huge in impact, has been no less gratifying for us than for the artisans. It has taught us that, while we tend to speak in numbers about refugees, there is an individual story of resilience – made up in many words, in many languages – behind each one. The satisfaction provided by seeing a finished product emerge from this exercise is definitely worth every bit of time and effort we put into ensuring we can all keep at it, artisans, program staff and funders alike.

Author’s Bio

Hamsa Vijayaraghavan completed her law degree from India and her Masters from the University of Rouen, France. She has nearly 2 years of work experience with the UNHCR field office in India. Hamsa has previously worked with Bail for Immigration Detainees and with Refugee and Migrant Justice, both in London. She has also worked as a consultant with the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India and UNICEF on drafting child protection laws. Hamsa is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Migration and Asylum Project, India’s first law centre dedicated to the study of forced migration issues, where she manages all the refugee legal assistance programmes including those for legal representation in the UNHCR asylum project. She has expertise in dealing with claims involving displaced women and children. 

DAY SIX: Displacement: Narratives of Contestations and Negotiations

Tanya Chaudhary’s piece follows from Sunalini Kumar’s as part of a broader discussion on displacement and the disproportionate effects it has on women. In particular, the reorganisation of urban space has gendered effects that lead to the further exclusion of women from public spaces.

Tanya Chaudhary

Featured image above: Author’s own

In the background of consequences of reorganization of urban space, this blog highlights the aftermath of the displacement of the working-class to the periphery. It uses the case study of a peripheral region of Delhi, called Narela, to show that this new site was marked with contestations and conflicts. Narela is located in the northern part of Delhi, situated 30-40 km from the centre of the city (Figure 1).  I discuss one important aspect of displacement, which the field-stories offered – that of ‘Placelessness’ amongst a displaced community and how it is – produced and reproduced at places of residence and work.

Figure 1: Study area
1: Location of places to which industrial relocation took place after 1996 Supreme Court Order of industrial relocation
2: Location of Narela
3: Location of resettled Jhuggis and urban villages in Narela, where workers were interviewed.
Source: Author, Field Study, 2017-19

Resettlement always has its own contestations and there was a restructuring of the social lives of people of the Narela resettled basti (slum) dwellers, especially with the absence of basic infrastructure.

Through the creation of resettlement colonies, albeit through processes of displacement, the ‘urban poor’ was included into the legal/formal ambits of city. However, these ways of inclusion intensified a certain kind of exclusion - struggling for livelihood, basic infrastructure, housing and social dignity. An intense impact on women’s lives was seen resulting in loss of their employment and an added burden of household activities residing in an area with no access to basic resources such as water, electricity, ration or proper housing.
After two decades of resettlement, there is still no access to tap water in all the houses, most houses depend on municipal water tank, mostly fetched by women of the household.
Placelessness post Displacement

The built environment of resettlement colonies with poor housing structure, no proper drainage and sewerage, water facilities, and narrow roads signified poverty and therefore was translated into the ways they were perceived by the already existing local communities (Varga, 2013)[1]. The resettlement colonies were not able to provide these people with a sense of security because of a sense of disorientation and placelessness after displacement. On my pilot field-visit in December 2017, I witnessed a commotion post an episode of brutal violence against an ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist, who are always women) worker in Pocket 11, who retaliated and filed a complaint against illegal selling of alcohol in Narela, because the men would spend most of their income there. There were a few women in the resettlement colony with the ASHA worker who went ahead and filed a police complaint. Later during the conversation about this incident with women, respondents of Pocket 11, opened up about alcoholism becoming a household problem for which the ASHA worker and a few others rightly raised their voice.

The women revealed that alcoholism and drugs have made it difficult for them to walk freely in their own neighbourhood streets and use public spaces. It not only had increased financial burden on women of the households but had also pushed young girls to dropout from school and take home-based work, which brought them to the judgement of the community members.

Hence in many cases of harassment or violence the women and young girls get no support from the community members. While narrating the whole incident, a woman mentioned, ‘Everyone was recording the incident but not one came in her support while it is everyone’s problem’. Alcoholism was exacerbated as a problem post resettlement because of a lack of community support to women to speak out against it in contrast with the support of community members they received when they were in ‘Delhi’ (the term used by resettled workers for core areas of Delhi from where they were replaced). Men of Pocket 11 had their own perspective about alcoholism, explaining that they mostly fell off the wagon and gave in to addiction because of loss of earlier employment opportunities and a long duration of struggle while resettling. 

Besides the above factors, the vacant and unregulated spaces in Narela  provided further opportunities to young men for using it to consume alcohol or drugs, which they could not do on the streets of resettlement colonies. The men from the local community also used these spaces for consuming alcohol and hanging out.

The Delhi Development Authority  commercial complexes and community spaces in Narela resettlement colony were public spaces which have become highly masculine spaces while women are usually left with home spaces and streets of resettlement colonies to socialize with no safe spaces around for their mobility.

On asking women about usage of Baraat Ghar (community space) in the resettlement colony of Pocket 8, women said they used it for teaching stitching and embroidery to young girls for a while, but because men and young boys started using it for drugs in the evening or late at night, parents stopped sending the girls. The space is now vacant and is only used by men and young boys. The park in Pocket 4 was used by boys to play or to smoke marijuana which made the space inappropriate for girls and women. The women only felt safe on the streets of the resettlement colonies or inside their homes.

Men occupying park outside the resettlement colony of Metro Vihar, in Narela
while women occupying streets inside the resettlement colony

The women of the resettled household found no work as domestic workers, which they had lost due to resettlement. The households of the local community did not prefer to employ women from the resettlement colony. Aware of this bias, women from the displaced community therefore preferred working in industries or home-based work. Violence associated with the resettlement colonies is inherently linked with the moral geography of Narela, which feeds into the process of how this space is perceived and further conceived. In an interview, Neeldaman Khatri, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Narela, had spoken about pushing for better law and order situation in Narela for assuring safety of women, which otherwise is known for not being safe for women. The violence, illegalities and everyday politics of space were not often resisted by the residents because of severed ties and a lack of solidarity amongst community members after resettlement. The moral panic was not only about the working-class community but also about certain religious and ethnic communities. The locals in Narela believed that the resettled slum dwellers used the place ‘inappropriately’ and their behavior, eating habits, religious practices would harm the meanings associated with the place. The presence of the working class in industry spaces, however, was not met with any tension, because that was assumed to be their place.

The displacement of working-class communities to resettlement colonies in the periphery of Delhi became a part of Delhi’s Resettlement and Rehabilitation Scheme. However, as evident from the above accounts drawing on lived experiences of women, the displacement has not only placed them in a space which harbours resentment, conflict and violence but has also weakened their networks and access to support of their community. Lack of government schools (ibid), accessible public spaces and employment opportunities for educated girls and land uses designed with no coherence, restrict the mobility of girls and make the place unsafe for women. The resettlement had an opportunity to set an example for co-creating safe spaces for working-class women. The failure of planning policies to adequately plan for inclusive spaces is also an inevitable result of the lack of effort to involve communities in the planning process.

References

[1] Varga, J. J. 2013. Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City, 1894-1914. New York: NYU Press

Author’s Bio

Dr. Tanya Chaudhary is presently working as an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Human Development. She has a PhD in Development Studies from Ambedkar University Delhi and was a recipient of Junior Research/Senior Research Fellowship from UGC during her PhD. Prior to this she had pursued Master’s in Geography from Jawaharlal Nehru University followed by another Masters in Regional Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. She had briefly worked at Town and Country Planning Organisation, Delhi as a Research consultant before joining a full-time PhD course. She has been a PhD exchange student at the Department of Geography, Indiana University Bloomington.

Her research work and publications contributes to the discipline of Urban Studies, Labour Geography, Migration Studies and Gender and Development. At IHD, Delhi she is managing and researching on a project on Tribal Migration from Rajasthan. She has also contributed to other projects on Social Security in the organised sector, UNICEF project on Cash Transfer Scheme for girl child and upcoming Delhi Human Development Report.