Millia secular in spirit: Vice chancellor
Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) has been a secular institution from its
very beginning, Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung said soon after the
varsity was given a 'minority institution'
New Delhi: The women's
studies centre in Jamia Millia Islamia has broken new ground by
reaching out to distressed and deprived women on the capital's
fringes as part of its study module.
"We are trying to work with the community in an organised way
because we are trying to make our academic curriculum more
initiative- oriented," Bulbul Dhar-James, director of the
university's Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women Studies, told IANS.
"For the first time, we have identified Shaheen Bagh, four
kilometres from the university towards the river, as one of the
most deprived areas in the neighbourhood. It is majorly populated
and unauthorised too. We are taking up the area as case study to
address issues of development."
James said her centre was "looking at migration into the area
post-Godhra (communal violence in Gujarat in 2002) and
post-Ayodhya (communal riots after the 1992 Babri mosque
demolition) and education of the girl child".
"We have included them in our gender sensitisation programme with
legal and clinical aid," James said.
The Jamia centre is conducting legal awareness workshops with
students and members of the faculty to generate awareness about
domestic and gender violence and the legal support available to
"Imparting life skills to women to make them self-employed is one
of the key components of our sensitisation campaign," she said.
Her centre will identify more communities in the months to come.
James will represent the country and South Asia as a special
rapporteur at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in
Geneva next month that will address gender violence, women and
children's welfare and cross-border terrorism.
Commenting on the plight of women in conflict areas and
situations, she said, "women were equal perpetuators, sometimes
bigger than men, of conflict situations. We want to work in tandem
with peace and within the framework of law and harmony," she said.
James urged women to avail themselves of the legal and clinical
aid provided by the Sarojini Naidu Centre.
The centre is collaborating with the NGO Breakthrough, the creator
of the Bell Bajao campaign against domestic violence, to raise
awareness about domestic violence. The campaign urges the people
to ring the bell in a house when domestic violence is unfolding
At a panel discussion hosted by the Jamia centre, country-director
of Breakthrough Sonali Khan said, "More silences had to be broken
down and more conversations were necessary to address issues
pertaining to sexual violence and help women take up roles of
"In most marginalised communities, there is little articulation of
sexual violence. At this juncture, we cannot expect
community-level norms to address it, but we can talk about it. At
least the challenge to meet the threat posed by HIV/AIDS has
enabled people to talk more openly about sexuality and safe sex
methods," Khan said.
Outlining a trend thrown up by a survey on sexual violence in
urban fringe carried out by her organisation, Khan said, "there
was still a lot of verbiage associated with sexual violence".
She said "people were now aware of the fact that the violence
could include verbal abuse, psychological torture and economic
deprivation as well."
"We need to work at various levels like in society, judiciary and
in families to mobilise opinion against violence against women.
The law against domestic violence is in place, but the mechanism
is ambiguous," Khan said.
Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)