Women without Borders has the great opportunity to participate in the Trust Women Conference in London organized by Thomson Reuters Trust Law Foundation and the International Herald Tribune. This year's conference focus is „Putting the Rule of Law behind Women's Rights“ - an issue that couldn't be more up to date.
After a brief video message by Aung San Su Kyi, the theme of today, “Culture and Law”, was introduced by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi. She highlighted the problems that arise for a society and especially the women in it when its culture and its legal system contradict each other. The many different speakers, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist, Sima Samar, the remarkable Chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, highlighted the dangers that a dual legal system, one formal, another ruled by entrenched traditions, poses to an equal society –what happens, when culture “clashes” law.
Women around the world have been faced with severe violations of their rights, ranging from forced (child) marriage to acid attacks, FGM and honor killings, just to name a few. Also, they have been denied education, emancipation and a life that is equal in rights to their male peers. In their arbitrariness, many of the practices that inhibit women's emergence have been justified with culture and sometimes religion, making them thus impalpable to foreign critics.
However, aside from the destitute situations in many countries, there were also positive narratives to be heard. Mercy Chidi, for example, of Tumaini Girls Rescue Centre in Kenya, told the delegates about a petition that was filed in October on the behalf of hundreds of Kenyan girls to force the police to investigate and prosecute rape cases they say have been ignored. They subsequently sued the government for failing to protect them from rape, a historic moment in Kenya. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy told the story of a young Pakistani woman that tries to challenge the mindset of rural Pakistani communities by asking them simple questions.
The general consensus of this first day of the conference was that women, who had been affected in any way by a violation of their basic rights, do not want to be designated as victims. They want to take action within their societies in order to prevent other women and girls from suffering similar fates or to change the way of history in their societies.
Another exciting and inspiring day is awaiting us tomorrow, with the focus on human trafficking.
- Lea von Martius
- Lea von Martius