Women Religious Lawyers Forum

December 2, 2011 by  
Filed under National, newsletter-india

LawyersMaharashtra, November 30, 2011: Women Religious Lawyers Forum was organized by Streevani, Voice of Women, a Pune based NGO and Montfort Social Institute, (Centre for Human Rights and Sustainable Development Education), Hyderabad from 27-30 November, 2011 at Navinta Retreat Centre, Delhi. The Forum is the 4th in the series.

The theme “Pursuit of Justice: Prophetic response for our times” provided a platform for 27 Women Religious Lawyers to come together from all over India on a common platform for a fourfold purpose:

• To update ourselves on the emerging legal corpus so that we can use them effectively in our legal practice.

• To familiarize ourselves with the human rights protection mechanisms in the country.

• To build solidarity among ourselves not only as legal practitioners, but as religious who share a prophetic mission in the Church

• To share our struggles and challenges that we encounter as women, as religious, as members of minority community and especially as lawyers and for a purposeful interaction among us with a forward looking strategy.

Sr Julie Ssps welcomed the participants to the workshop and Bro Varghese Theckanath SG introduced the workshop and the speakers. He said that this group is a special and unique group. There are many laws passed in the recent time and we need to get familiar with them.

“We shall avail the opportunity to visit the Supreme Court and visit some human rights commissions to build mutual support and solidarity,” he said.

Women and Men Religious Lawyers have been playing an important role in providing necessary legal support to the poor, especially women, in many parts of the country, either free of cost or at a minimal charge. It has been in the form of legal awareness, providing necessary legal support systems and legal advocacy in individual cases in District and High courts. This service has been found to be invaluable in bringing justice to the poor wherever they work.

Resource person Mr John Dayal spoke on the Communal Violence Bill brought out by the Govt. Act, 2005 which empowers the Govt but not the victims. This bill is still alive in the Rajya Saba opposed by the Muslims. He said that Khadhamal is a classic collapse of the Indian Constitution as there were no volunteers to file the FIR as in Gujarat resulting in total lack of protection of the witnesses and gross miscarriage of justice.

The participants asked themselves, “What can we do as a group towards this bill? And how to create a way for advocacy? The following practical suggestions emerged as the poor are often accused:

– Advocacy begins at the grass-root levels/State levels

– Write letters to them

– Make opinion makers in your own areas

– The fear of the authorities has to be removed

There was also a panel of Archbishop Vincent Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi, Mr Cyriac Joseph, Honourable Justice, Supreme Court and Mr Cyriac Thomas, Honourable member, Commission for Minority Education Institution.

Archbishop Vincent in his message said from his own experience, “unless you change the system, nothing will change” and “if justice prevails, peace will prevail”.

In the Inuagural Address, Mr Cyriac Joseph, Honourable Justice, Supreme Court spoke to Religious Women Lawyers from his heart and said that for a lay person, a Lawyer is a profession but for you it is a mission. Therefore have a deep commitment to justice and to the knowledge of the law.

Mr Cyriac Thomas, Honourable member, Commission for Minority Education Institution in addressing the gathering said, “The best witness in a court is a sister.” And “our strength is in our credibility, therefore strengthen it”.

On the 29th the participants visited the Supreme Court and commission for Human Rights, to understand the working of the court and commissions and build solidarity.

At the end of the Workshop the participants gained sufficient knowledge and skills to use the legal institutions that exist at the national level, in their work as advocates to bring justice to the poor at the grass roots.

– cri

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