Violence and “Injustices” Against Women: Interventions of a Village Level Women's Meeting in Tamil Nadu, South India

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Janna VOGL, Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, Erfurt, Germany
NGOs in India have often been criticized from the angle of the current Indian “civil society” discourse as realizing governmental (welfare or development) politics in regard to their target groups, who are – in the Foucauldian sense – only seen as population groups, not proper citizens (e.g. Partha Chatterjee). In this scenario there is no scope for the question of local appropriations, realizations, and contestation of concepts such as women's rights or citizenship.

In asking how women who participate in women's rights NGOs programs utilize, contest, and adapt concepts, ideas, methods, and (access to) institutions which play a role in the NGO work, this paper looks upon NGOs from a different perspective. Qualitative interviews with founders, staff, and members of two NGOs focusing on “grassroots” women's life situations as well as ethnographic field research in their working areas in Chennai, South India and surrounding districts serve as basis to develop this perspective.

Referring to an informal but long-established women's meeting (sankam) in a Dalit village in the working area of one NGO, the paper asks: How and for what reasons do women from the sankam intervene in cases of violence or “injustices” against women and girls? Which cases are taken up, which cases not? Which conflicts arise between women in the sankam, between the sankam and families or the village public, between the sankam and the NGO, and between the sankam and the legal system? In answering these questions it will be possible to extract (different) understandings of delivering “justice” and achieving “women's rights”. These different understandings as well as conflicts between various local orders and agendas lead to ambiguous positionings in the realm between institutional structures, e.g. the legal system, and the local context.