Flavia Agnes is a women’s rights lawyer and writer and has been actively involved in the women’s movement for the last two decades. She has written extensively on issues of domestic violence, feminist jurisprudence and minority rights. Her books are widely acclaimed and are popular among advocates, paralegal workers, law students and women who have been victims of domestic violence. Currently she co-ordinates the legal centre of MAJLIS and is also engaged in her doctoral research on Property Rights of Married Women with the National Law School of India. (SPARROW online).
She is named as Ashoka Fellow.
Her book: Women and Law in India: An Omnibus Comprising/introduction by Flavia Agnes. New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2004, 676 pages, $39. ISBN 0-19-566767-0
Flavia Agnes – India
She works for MAJLIS.
Law and Gender Inequality maps the issue of gender and law reform upon a broad canvas of history and politics, and explores strategies which could safeguard women’s rights within India’s sphere of complex social and political boundaries. Written in a lucid style, this book provides an invaluable analysis of the current trends of the debate on the Uniform Civil Code and goes on to expose the communal undertones of some recent judicial pronouncements. Readership: The book will be of interest to scholars and students of law, gender studies, activists and NGOs. (webstore).
CHALLENGING THE LAW: WOMEN’S STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY IN INDIA POST-GUJARAT.
What is most significant is the fact that Flavia married after high school was a battered mother of three. Way back in the Seventies she came to a women’s group in Mumbai for support. It took her a long time to break free of the marriage and the domestic violence within it. Once she did, she penned a very moving autobiography called My story…Our Story of Rebuilding Broken Lives. The story was widely translated into different languages including Punjabi. A decade ago a play based on her life story was presented in Punjabi all over Punjab with Paramjit Tewari as director.(full text).
Flavia Agnes, lawyer and founder of Majlis, a legal advocacy programme for women, pointed out that the nikahnama was not “legally binding. It is just a private agreement”. “The courts provide enough legal recourse for Muslim divorce. It is a shame that this is not known at all among the majority of women in the community,” she said. Muslim women were protected, under the Dissolution of the Muslim Marriage Act, 1939, and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, even before their Hindu and Christian counterparts. “There are several cases which have proved that Muslim women will get justice in a court,” said Flavia Agnes. “It is really unfortunate that the AIMPLB discourages people from taking legal recourse. If they endorsed the role of the courts, the issue of triple talaq would be tackled head on,” said Flavia Agnes, who was part of a group of activists, academics and scholars in Mumbai that drafted a model nikahnama and presented it to the AIMPLB 10 years ago. Since then the group has been lobbying with the AIMPLB to draft a model nikahnama. (full text).
Women and the Law in India Omnibus. (full text).
Although today, Flavia Agnes is known as the successful co-founder of the Women’s Centre in Mumbai, and a social activist on women’s empowerment issues, she has had a very different beginning. She was a victim of domestic violence herself, and her path breaking story demonstrates her immense strength and belief in herself. Flavia realizes the emptiness of sexual equality shy of economic independence and to increase women’s employment level, she launches an innovative job training, placement, and public awareness program. Her dedication, passion and courage have made her the success story that she is today. (full text).
She writes: … The mushrooming of an entire industry called the ‘dance bars’ had escaped the notice of the women’s movement in the city despite the fact that several groups and NGOs had been working on issues such as domestic violence, dowry harassment, rape and sexual harassment. Everyone in Mumbai is aware that there are some exclusive ‘ladies bars’, but usually women, especially those unaccompanied by men, are stopped at the entrance. Occasionally, when a bar dancer was raped and/or murdered, women’s groups had participated in protest rallies organized by local community based groups, more as an issue of violence against women than as a specific engagement with the day to day problems of bar dancers. The August 20 rally in which thousands of bar dancers had participated received wide media publicity. The newspapers reported that there are about 75,000 bar girls. On the day of the rally, a television channel had invited me to give my reaction to the protest by bar dancers. I had welcomed it as a positive step. That was my first interaction with the issue of bar dancers. Soon thereafter, Ms. Varsha Kale, the President of the Bar Girls Union approached me and requested me to represent them through an ‘Intervener Application’ in the Writ Petition filed by the bar owners. Varsha is not a bar dancer, she belonged to a women’s group in Dombvili (in the Central suburbs of Mumbai) … (Hypocritical morality, full very long text).
… Agnes also offers insights to the split in the women’s movement that emerged in the 1990s due to the secularism crisis and the malaise that handicaps India’s law enforcement system. She questions whether the women’s movement has really been able to test the bounds set by Indian patriarchy. Significantly, Agnes discusses with her experiences and views on the communal and sexual violence against women in Gujarat in 2002, in the aftermath of which her organization and volunteer law students coordinated relief and legal work. A striking feature of this talk is that Agnes attempts to connect the dots between the framing of India’s rape and sexual violence laws and the eventual breakdown of Gujarat’s state machinery in 2002. She does so in an illuminating manner, and concludes with her views on the current status of women’s rights in India and the challenges before the women’s movement … (full text).
RECEIVES FR. PARMANANDA DIVARKAR ‘COMMUNICATION FOR PEACE AWARD 2005’.
In the ’50s, the Hindu Code introduced, in splinters, legal equality for women while dispensing with several of their customary rights in the interests of uniformity. The demand for a UCC was then partly premised on the myth that Hindus were governed by a secular egalitarian and gender-just code which should therefore be extended to liberate Muslim women. While explaining this, Flavia Agnes argues that the legislations that comprised the Hindu Code ‘were neither Hindu in character nor based on modern principles of equality but reflected the worst tendencies of both’ (p. 81). Further, through a detailed analysis of judicial decisions, she demonstrates how the rights of women, particularly those concerning succession and marriage, were systematically whittled down. The controversy surrounding the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case in 1985 brought into sharp focus the politics of identity and led to the enactment of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act in 1986, negating the effect of the judgment. The Act, seen as a move to appease Muslims, was simultaneous with the decision of the then government to unlock the disputed Babri Masjid in February 1986. Flavia sees the judgment and the Act as a watershed for the women’s movement. ‘From this point onwards,’ she argues, ‘the gender discourse became far more complex. Identity politics and gender equality could no longer be placed as two mutually exclusive and hostile terrains. While gender equality continued to be the desired goal, the demand had to be reformulated within the context of cultural diversity and rights of marginalised sections’ … (full text).
photos on Celebrating Women Fighting for Rights;
photos on AidIndia;