The Centre for Women, Law and Social Change has been established to advance inter-disciplinary approaches to Feminism in teaching, research and policy advocacy. Along with an academic commitment to high-quality research in the field of gender and the Centre aims to actively contribute to wider legal thinking on issues related to social justice. The Centre aims to support the initiatives of all the Centres at Jindal Global University, and actively collaborate with international, national and grassroots organisations. It encourages various student initiatives in the field of gender and social justice and seeks to encourage critical thinking on how gender operates in a dynamic with other structures of power in both historical and contemporary contexts. The Centre members teach courses on Feminist Jurisprudence; Gender Law and Governance and Family Law.

Foreward by Professor Ratna Kapur

As we witness the fall of the mighty men who have spearheaded some remarkable moments in Indian judicial history or launched searching inquiries and made searing critiques through the media demanding transparency from the governmental apparatus, we are stunned by the ease with which they have allegedly treated members of half the citizenry of this country with the utmost disrespect. The judicial and media mechanisms have now turned their gaze onto retired Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly, accused of sexual harassment by a young legal intern, and Tarun Tejpal, editor-in-chief and publisher of Tehelka magazine, accused of assaulting a fellow female journalist in a hotel elevator in Goa, calling them to account for the accusations that have been levied against them. How is it possible to reconcile the fact that such individuals have been held out as representing all that is dignified and integral to the most significant components of Indian democracy – the judiciary and the media – while allegedly behaving in a manner that has so undermined that democratic space? While the allegations remain to be proven, what is certain is that these stories will continue to spill into the public arena, because women are now willing to step forward to make the allegations driven by a new found confidence that perhaps this time they will be believed.

There are undoubtedly many others out there who have hidden behind the wall of silence that surrounds issues of sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexual abuse, depending confidently not only on their own respectable standing but also on the ostensible “shame” and “dishonour” a woman would experience should she reveal these “indiscretions”. The fact that these walls of secrecy are crumbling, that women are finding a voice and speaking of the abuses with confidence and without fear of shame or ostracism is a sign of the remarkable change that has come about in society in recent years. While the protests and demonstrations after the December 16th rape and murder in 2012 were indicative of these changes, they have become more vocal and visible over the course of this year alone.

And while the objective is not to bring down individuals of repute, it is to point out the hypocrisy that afflicts society where women who march with men on the streets to demand justice, can so easily become the objects of harassment by the very dispensers of that justice, be it in the form of judicial robes or at the hands of the mavericks of the visual and print media.

There is no question that we have not heard the last on this issue. Women will continue to come out and tell their stories of abuse and harassment, sexism and assault, at the hands of the very individuals that command the respect and adulation of society. It is not an easy place to go. And it may be that the legal establishment or media may be reluctant to disparage their own. It is for this very reason that blog spaces such as this one launched by the Centre for Women, Law and Social Change of Jindal Global University becomes a critical space through which to speak of that which has been shrouded in silence and shame for too long. It is a space where the right to free speech can and must be facilitated, to ensure that these issues are heard, debated and most importantly, effectively addressed.

I welcome the addition of this blog space and look forward to its rise as a central arena for the discussion and debate on women’s rights not only within the context of the University but also within the context of the transnational, global world that we all now inhabit.

Ratna Kapur,

Jindal Global Law School