No single path: cultural perspectives in overcoming domestic violence

Violence Violence against women Family violence Australia

The presentation by Veena Poonacha, Professor and Director, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, India, begins by describing the Self Help Groups (SHGs) movement and will subsequently narrate the struggles of the women in a tribal community in the heart of the Dandakaranya forest a thousand miles from where I live in Mumbai to overcome some of their cultural and economic subordination. The struggle was triggered by the life and death of one of their companions called Babulbai. Set against the backdrop of the socio-economic and political changes that have affected the lives of this forest community, this narrative indicates the challenges and hardships faced by the development workers. In the process, I also wish to unravel some of the difficulties encountered in bringing about socio-economic change in the forgotten corners of rural India. For this story takes into account the impact of prolonged economic deprivations and political violence on the indigenous norms of control over women, as the village under study is caught between the crossfire of Maoist insurgency and brutal police repression. It indicates the courage of the indigenous women and the grassroots workers in their collective struggles against the existing patriarchal/class oppression as well as the structures of political intimidation. The narration also indicates how the life and death of an ordinary woman is erased from the living memory of the community through a process of collective denial. It indicates how a conspiracy of silence imposed upon the community by the power elite in the village, forever wipes out the truth about an ordinary woman’s attempt at self-assertion.

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