Mock Tribunal Brings to Life Plight of Women Around the World


Students gave voice to victims of human rights abuses in a mock tribunal on March 6, 2013, offering vivid and emotional testimony that highlighted how women continue to endure injustice throughout the world.

The presentation, modeled after the Vienna Women's Human Rights Tribunal in 1979, was part of Global Perspectives on Women's Rights, taught by Professor Judith Gordon. The students prepared "personal" testimony, based on actual events, personal accounts, and other research. Audience members asked questions and reacted to the evidence presented, much like the judges who served on the 1979 tribunal.

One student testified as a woman from Cameroon, and told the story of her mother and grandmother subjecting her to "breast ironing" as an 11 year old. The practice, intended to protect girls from rape and premarital sex, uses heated objects to prevent the breasts from developing. Asked her mother had experienced the same thing, she said, "yes, and it was done to my grandmother when she was an adolescent."

Another student told the story of her arranged marriage on her 18th birthday, in New Delhi, India. "I wanted to celebrate my birthday," she said. "I did not want to leave my family. I did not want to get married." She was forced to stay at home, despite her education and desire to work. She finally fled, she said, after the death of her child. "I was forced to watch my husband kill my daughter," because he had wanted a boy.

While physical violence was a common issue -- acid attacks, sex trafficking, genital mutilation, and more -- students also addressed economic exploitation. One speaker said she was forced to be financially reliant on the men in her family, who would take out loans in her name.

(Photo: A student portrays a young woman who was attacked with acid after rejecting a teacher's sexual advances.)