Women with courage, strength and patience. Supporting their children and each other. Speaking out against violence at home and outside. Despite the pain of abuse and the threat of ostracization and backlash. In India, Cameroon, China, Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere. Portrayed through the lens of sensitive and concerned artists. In the women’s own voices and others’. This was Daughters of Fire, a festival of films and discussions on violence against women and women’s resistance to it. Last weekend, Vimochana and the Asian Women and Human Rights Council in collaboration with the Bangalore Film Society and Alliance Francaise de Bangalore organized screenings and interactive sessions on various issues affecting women worldwide.
Held against the backdrop of the India Court of Women on Dowry and Related Forms of Violence (to be hosted by Vimochana and AWHRC along with several women’s groups on July 27-29, 2009 at Christ University, Bangalore) the films reflected on the nature of violence particularly against women at home and outside and the burden of being born a girl. It also depicted how women respond to and oppose this violence both at an individual and collective level and the varying notions of justice that exist across cultures and communities.
It started with the popular and vibrant Indipop music video Mann ke manjeere about the true story of a fearless woman who left an abusive marriage and works as a truck driver to support herself and her daughter. Immediately after this was the segment "A Requeim for Agony" with insightful and poignant films on child brides in drought prone Rajasthan, trafficking of young girls in rural Bengal, bride abduction in Kyrgyzstan and the keepers of one of the world’s last matriarchal societies in China.
Following a relevant topical discussion, the segment "A Paean to Courage" had powerful narrations of those who broke male bastions – the first female bard and singer in Rajasthan and a spirited Panchayat member in Tamil Nadu. Next were stories of comfort women and sex slaves during war time in East Asia and Europe and a film about a worldwide women’s movement against war. Then came portrayals of community courts that manage to render justice to women and child victims of domestic abuse in Rwanda and Cameroon.
Pertinent to the theme, was a dialogue on the impact of justice whether retributive, transformative or transitional (as in Bosnia) on the victims. Participants observed that many women live with abuse and violence due to minimal awareness of alternatives and support or return to the initial situation when other options fail. They agreed that perpetrators mayn’t change with punishment and sensitization and counseling should include men, extended family and community. Questions of whether the current forms of resistance were enough and effective even if they were enforced by circumstances and had evolved over time were also raised.
The final film, The Lightening Testimonies was a telling reflection on the history of conflict in the Indian subcontinent through experiences of sexual violence and protests against it. The festival concluded with a song by Mercedes Sosa, an Argentine folk singer and key player in the Nueva Canción (New Song) movement in the 1960’s in Latin America who has championed empowerment of the poor through social songs and is best known as the voice of the "voiceless ones".