FEMINIST JURISPRUDENCE


MEETING ON FEMINIST JURISPRUDENCE

The National Commission for Women (NCW) organized a meeting for determining the curricular content of Feminist Jurisprudence to be taught in the Law Faculties of various universities and institutes, on 31st October - 1st November, 2003 at the India International Centre, New Delhi. Various luminaries from law, women studies and other related fields along with teachers of law at various colleges, inter alia, had participated in the meeting. The challenge before the participants at the meeting was to chalk out a course curriculum for feminist jurisprudence to be incorporated in LLB and LLM courses.

The meeting commenced with a formal welcome address by Mrs. Sunila Basant, Member Secretary, NCW. She pointed out that the meeting was topical relevance in view of increasing onslaught on women and their rights. Feminist Jurisprudence can contribute significantly by looking at rights and remedies in critical areas of equality, position in family, employment and life. She stressed that India is a stratified and segmented society and Feminist Jurisprudence will therefore, also have to explore areas like atrocities against women of weaker sections in feudal situations.

The background paper for the meeting was presented by Dr. Nilima Chandiramani, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Mumbai, who had submitted a draft report on "Guidelines for a course on feminist jurisprudence" to be introduced at LLB and LLM courses in India to the NCW in March, 2001. She pointed out that very few law schools in India offered papers related to feminist jurisprudence at the LLB and LLM levels and even in those, only substantive provisions of law were taught and the issues were not dealt with from the point of view of women.

In her address, the Chairperson, NCW, Dr. Poornima Advani, confessed that although the Commission had been intensely dreaming of incorporating feminist jurisprudence in LLB and LLM courses since the year 1999, there had been no implementation of the same since. Thus, the NCW initiated action on the issue by organizing the meeting. Dr. Advani emphasized that while preparing the course curriculum, the stark realities have to feature. She also stressed on the need to bring the available resources, energy and efforts of all organizations/institutions such as the NCW and National Human Rights Commission, Colleges, lawyers and women activists etc. under one umbrella so as to avoid any overlapping.

A vote of thanks was proposed by Ms. Baby Rani Maurya, Member, NCW, who pointed out that there is need for amendment in the laws and that laws should be viewed from the point of view of women.

The first plenary session, which was chaired by Prof. B.P. Srivastava, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, aimed at discussing what feminist jurisprudence is and why is it required to be studied. Dr. Poonam Saxena, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi explained that feminist jurisprudence is the knowledge of law from the point of view of women. Ms. Flavia Agnes, a practicing lawyer, pointed out various provisions in the Indian laws which though, on paper appear to have been enacted in the interest of women, are in reality prejudicial to their interest. Ms. Rekha Pandey, while explaining 'what is feminist jurisprudence', opined that women have to be central when studying jurisprudence. During an interaction, various suggestions were made eg., every girl and boy must compulsorily be given a course on feminist jurisprudence at the first year level of graduation.

The second plenary session chaired by Sh. Adish c. Agarwala, vice Chairman, Bar council of India, focused on the incorporation of feminist jurisprudence in law courses Prof. Ranbir Singh, Director, NALSAR, Hyderabad, expressed strongly that Feminist Jurisprudence has to be internalized into the system rather than incorporating separate subject o it in the LLB and LLM courses. He was of the view that issues relating to feminist jurisprudence must be included in the existing subjects. Prof. Moolchand Sharma, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, stressed on the need to launch parallel project on teaching methodology and faculty development in order to successfully incorporate feminist jurisprudence in the course curriculum. He was of the view, that the constituency, i.e. on whom the course is to administered, had to be identified and that the course developed must answer the grand objectives like, awareness, sensitization, building capacity, imparting skill and unwarning the prejudices etc.

Summing up the days discussion, the Vice Chairman, Bar council of India, agreed that these was a need to incorporate a subject as Feminist Jurisprudence in the curriculum for LLB and LLM courses and that it should be mandatory if it was to serve any use. He also gave an assurance to the NCW that once the course curriculum for feminist jurisprudence is framed by it, the subject would be included in the curriculum at law college with the help of the Bar council of India. On the second day of the meeting i.e. Ist November, 2003 as a matter of convenience the participants divided themselves into two groups in order to review the curriculum devised by the CDC. Upon a discussion after the presentation, various other changes which were suggested by the participants, were incorporated.

Expressing the views of the group reviewing the curriculum for the LLB course, Prof. Pam Rajpute, centre for women's Studies and development, Punjab University, mentioned that the paper must be incorporated in the curriculum for the final year of the course i.e. the 3rd or the 5th year, as the case may be. She suggested that faculty development and developing a teaching methodology are needed and that, certain regional workshops, atleast for the initial few years, must be organized for the purpose of building the capacity of the teachers. Prof. Rajpute finally suggested that it would be pertinent to test the course on the participants themselves, so that it could be seen whether the course could actually be taught from the perspective with which they plan to teach.

The Vice Chairman, UGC , Prof.V.N. Rajshakharan Pillai who was also present at the meeting promised support and assistance both financial & otherwise from the UGC to the NCW, in introducing a course in feminist Jurisprudence in the various universities. He also assured to supply catalysts for training the teachers once an outline of the course curriculum is devised by the NCW.

The two groups would finalise the draft course curriculum for the next joint workshop of LLB and LLM course and these would be discussed in the next meeting.

It was suggested that selected bibliography in the curriculum devised by the CDC of the UGC should also include the name of Indian writers. A sociologist should also be included in the group dealing with LLM.

At the end, Dr. Poornima Advani, Chairperson, NCW, expressed her delight over the success of the meeting saying that for her it was a dream come true, that the participants had really been involved in working towards finalizing a course content for feminist jurisprudence. She suggested that notes of the reviewed course curriculum for both LLB and LLM courses be sent to all participants as well as universities for further suggestions upon it. Dr. Advani expressed her hope that the course curriculum would be published by the Ist February, 2004 so that it could be placed on the laps of the UGC by the 8thMarch, 2004, which is celebrated as the World Women's Day.

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