On October 22 and 23, in New Delhi, India, the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School hosted its Second Annual Women and Justice Conference, "Gender-Based Violence and Justice in South Asia." Co-hosted by Jindal Global Law School, the conference was presented with the support of Avon Foundation for Women and in collaboration with UN Women; Virtue Foundation; Kriti Team; the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University; and Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI).
The Second Annual Women and Justice Conference convened more than two hundred people from over fifteen countries. Participants included senior and distinguished judges from national and international courts, including judges from the highest courts of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka, eminent scholars, and human rights activists.
In addition to creating a dialogue across national boundaries, the Women and Justice Conference was organized to foster interactions between people who, though working toward common goals, often operate in isolation from each other. Speakers and participants included economists, women’s studies scholars, legal professionals and scholars, and health professionals.
"By bringing together stakeholders across sectors, we created opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas and best practices," says Sital Kalantry, Faculty Director of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice and Associate Clinical Professor of law at Cornell Law School. "Professors were able to present their scholarly works to policymakers and activists who could put those theories into practice. Judges heard from victims of violence outside of the formal setting of a court room and learned first-hand of the difficulties they face within the criminal justice system."
Adds Sara Lulo '02, Executive Director of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice and Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, "One of the highlights for probably all in attendance was the compelling presentation by an acid attack survivor who recounted her experience not only as a survivor of a heinous form of violence, but also as someone who has felt frustrated and betrayed by her home country’s court system. Sadly, such frustrations are all too common amongst women survivors of violence around the world. Her deeply personal presentation and courage--and the palpable reactions and emotions evoked amongst participants--were important grounding elements for this conversation about ‘access to justice.'"
Looking forward, Lulo says, "We are pleased to have received a lot of positive feedback on the import and impact of the conference. We hope that this convening not only reinforced important existing networks, but likewise sparked new connections that will advance further results-oriented collaborations."
Established in 2009 with a generous five-year grant from the Avon Foundation for Women, the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice works with judges, legal professionals, governmental and non-governmental organizations to improve access to justice in an effort to eliminate violence against women and girls.
The Avon Global Center and its partner organizations will publish a report that summarizes and highlights key proceedings from the Women and Justice Conference. This report, along with recordings of the proceedings, will be made available at www.womenandjustice.org.