Puja Kapai, Associate Professor and Convenor of the Women's Studies Research Centre, was invited to deliver a special keynote address by Plan International India and the Government of India's Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment at the Plan for Every Child 2018: Girls Get Equal Conference held in New Delhi at the India Habitat Centre from 5 to 7 December, 2018. Other speakers included Mr Justice Lokur, Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Ms Mikiko Otani, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, magistrates, government ministers, the police, academics, civil society leaders, media representatives, as well as children themselves. It was a multidisciplinary and interactive event which engaged thousands of stakeholders working with children across India, focusing in particular on the girl child, those at risk of trafficking and sexual and domestic abuse, street children, and juveniles in the criminal justice system.
Puja’s keynote, ‘Pathways to Gender Justice: A Critical Intersectional Framework’, focused on the need for legal and social justice advocates to adopt an intersectional framework to address specific vulnerabilities which children who sit at the intersection of multiple sites of oppression experience. Drawing on gender as the focal lens, she presented specific examples of how such a lens enables an enriched understanding of the nexus of pull and push factors which impoverish the girl child’s access to a range of human rights, including education, freedom from violence, and access to justice. Puja also presented an intersectional assessment framework integrated with the Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) framework which she launched earlier this year with Plan International Hong Kong at the Conference on Safeguarding Children’s Best Interests . This serves as a shared tool for frontline responders, encouraging them to adopt a common language and framework for the identification and management of relevant and responsive interventions.
Excerpt from the speech:
‘Critical intersectional inquiry urges the mapping of the various axes of inequity, oppression, discrimination or exclusion onto a framework. It then enables us to critically examine not only the prevalence of multiple vectors in the equation but more importantly, their inter-relationship and how they intersect to create the conditions which entrench individual children in a particular context to a life of deprivation. Using this framing and critical lens then, organisations and frontline responders working with children can build their capacities for more effective identification of specific environmental, substantive as well as structural challenges which warrant targeted interventions to formulate strategies to deliver responsive, accessible and meaningful justice. In essence, it means building up an entire ecosystem for the actualization of a unique model of justice which responds to intersecting axes of marginality in particular children or groups of children.
When we can accurately problematize issues, we render visible the invisible – the unseen, hidden, yet embedded – realities. We are able to capture within our analytical lens the aggressions, power, oppression or structurally entrenched constructs and relationships between issues. This knowledge presenting a fuller picture with all its layers of complexity enhances the prospects of justice, in particular, gender justice.’