South Asian feminist engagements with law: Some explorations in the context of violence against women
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Though shaped by the distinct historical and political regimes and institutions in each country, women’s movements in South Asian countries have much in common. The struggle for justice in the context of violence against women is one of them. Women’s movements in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have a rich history and tradition of resisting patriarchy and violence by state and non-state actors and pursuing justice and accountability through political struggles and democratic processes. In this article, I examine two decades of South Asian feminist engagements with law in the realm of violence against women. I explore the potential for cross border legal activism, strategy sharing, solidarity, and cooperation. For my analysis, I largely draw upon feminist responses to honor crimes, acid violence, domestic violence and sexual violence. The paper is divided into five parts. In Part I, I introduce the topic and define the parameters of the article. In Part II, I discuss South Asian feminist engagements with law-making and law reform processes. Part III consists of an analysis of judgments that advance gender justice, resulting from feminist advocacy and lawyering. Part IV foregrounds the common journeys, shared experiences and challenges, and common feminist strategies in the annals of law and justice. I conclude this paper, in Part V, with the emerging South Asian feminist jurisprudence on violence against women, and its immense potential in advancing justice in each of the countries in the region.
KeywordsSouth Asia Feminist Law Violence against women Patriarchy Campaigns Movements Justice Accountability
The author deeply appreciates Sara Hossain, barrister at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and her team at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Dhaka for sharing judgments and legal materials for this paper in a timely manner, and Jannani, a student at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata for her research assistance. The author also thanks the peer reviewers and editors of this journal for their constructive suggestions.