Culture and Human Rights
Photo Credit: B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

Retired Judge Emphasizes Culture’s Dual Role in Human Rights Struggle

Retired Madras High Court judge Prabha Sridevan discussed the dual impact of culture on the mobilization for human rights during an international conference on ‘Gender Dynamics in History, Society, Culture, and Power Structures.’ She highlighted the potential positive use of culture to unite people in the fight for human rights but also warned against its negative exploitation by those wielding power.

Sridevan specifically pointed out the negative influence of culture in cases involving ‘khap’ panchayats and ‘honour killings,’ describing them as manifestations of male-cultural hegemony. She stressed how culture often dictates that a family’s honor is vested in a woman, particularly in her body.

Addressing the challenges faced by women in approaching courts, Sridevan cited various hurdles such as distance, language barriers, and an intimidating legal structure.

Nanditha Krishna, president of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, discussed the historical impact of powerful women in India, citing examples like former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Krishna highlighted Gandhi’s role in preventing the genocide of Bangladeshis during her tenure.

Reflecting on women in ancient society, Krishna revealed that 21 authors of the Rig Veda were women known as rishikas, equal to their male counterparts. She acknowledged the contributions of historical figures like Rani Abbakka, Rani Mangammal, Velu Nachiyar, and Kuyili in India’s freedom struggle.

The conference also saw the release of the book ‘Unsung Heroes of Freedom Struggle in India.’ The event was attended by various dignitaries, including Principal (i/c) Sr. Stella Mary, Sr. Judith Anita Gonsalvez, Dolly Thomas, Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies, and Susan Paul, Head of the Department of History.

Repurposed article originally published in the Hindu

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