Welcome to Part 1 of our February 2023 Inspirational Interview with Amrita S. Nair, founder of The Silent Sexism Project and Editor-in-Chief of The Intersectional Feminist magazine.
Ms. Nair is an activist and lawyer, particularly interested in human rights litigation. Her passion lies in public law, criminal law, and human rights. As the founder of The Silent Sexism Project and The Intersectional Feminist magazine, she understands the insidious ways in which discrimination and denied access to resources affects communities across the fabric of society. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems, gender roles, and child abuse as roots of violence, as well as non-violent conflict resolution, the cultures of Indigenous peoples, and organising movements across boundaries for peace and justice. She currently lives and practices in Bombay.
Part 2 of this interview will be published 6 February 2023.
All photos are courtesy of The Silent Sexism Project.
1.How and why did you join the movement to end violence against women (VAW)?
As a law student, I always imagined grand entrances and flourishing speeches as my legacy in the judicial system, a culmination of my growth as a practitioner of law. Alas, the reality was a jarring revelation to me as my first taste of judicial proceedings was when I reported an instance of sexual harassment by my peers to my professors and counsellors. Most of them asked me to let go of the matter, knowing that these men came from politically connected and influential families while stating that “men will be men” and that “every woman undergoes this. Forgive and forget.” I could not take it any longer and decided that this has to change. Discussion alone is never satisfying, and I found myself spurred to action. I decided to fight back despite all the consequences their families threatened me with and fought a legal battle at the High Court of Karnataka. Thus began my journey as a participant in the movement to end violence against women.
2.The Silent Sexism Project (TSSP) was established in 2019 to catalogue “instances of sexism experience on a day-to-day basis”. How did TSPP come to be founded?
The journey of TSSP started in tandem with my career in law. With the vision to effectuate change in society, I chose law as my career path. Since the very beginning, a lot of questions were thrown at me, making me doubt my choice of career. I was reminded time and again by my peers about how women were emotional and incapable of being good lawyers. Despite these criticisms, I was inspired by the efforts of women lawyers who came before me and affected my outlook on the legal sector. I wanted to be a part of the system in pursuit of altering it and making it accessible to marginalised sections.
The Silent Sexism Project is a collateral child of all these thoughts. What started as an attempt to catalogue instances of everyday sexism has now grown into a thriving community of people, unafraid of speaking out against discriminatory behaviour.
3.Can you tell us about how TSSP’s approach to stopping sexism and VAW has developed since 2019?
We started with sharing instances of everyday sexism, intending to provide a platform to amplify the experiences of men and women who have suffered because of the patriarchy. With time we have forayed into various other arenas including providing resources for domestic violence survivors, workplace harassment survivors, and mental health assistance, among other things. We also provide access to pro bono legal aid and rehabilitation. We have run campaigns on normalising breastfeeding and the Chop for a Cause Campaign for hair donations to charitable organisations that make wigs for cancer patients. We conduct workshops in schools and colleges about identifying VAW, how one can help women, and how to be allies to survivors. We also educate firms and organisations on how to conduct Internal Complaint Committee proceedings and the finer nuances of the anti-sexual harassment law. Further, TSSP has also worked with sex workers in Bengaluru and Mumbai, advocating for their rights and defending them against any form of VAW. Members of the team were also involved in organising Pride around India and in London.
4.TSSP came into being 6 years after Laura Bates founded The Everyday Sexism Project in the UK with a similar focus on cataloguing sexism experienced by women in everyday life. How do TSSP and The Everyday Sexism Project differ in approach?
While The Everyday Sexism Project catalogues daily instances of sexism, TSSP has taken that concept forward from a movement, cataloguing the instances of sexism to fight against these injustices in addition to educating people on the impacts of sexism, regardless of gender, in a patriarchal society. Our goal is to fight the patriarchy on all fronts, with our approach being focused on impacting change through grassroots-level advocacy, education, policy, and legal framework reforms.
5.TSSP’s most recent initiatives include the IF Magazine, a “pioneer online magazine dedicated exclusively to content relating to intersectional feminism” as well as the Endora Foundation which is an online collaboration between IF Magazine and TSSP that “creates awareness of situations of oppression and violation of rights caused to various classes of society, and to conduct social programs, community outreach, research, etc, in social issues including but not limited to minority rights, oppression, sexism, etc for the welfare of society at large.” What impact have IF Magazine and the Endora Foundation made so far on educating individuals and communities in India about sexism against women and girls?
Endora Foundation is the trust under which TSSP and IF magazine are initiatives. After looking at TSSP and its operation, we felt there was a need for a digital platform to engage with women and provide a forum to speak about their issues in an unfiltered manner. IF magazine has dealt with delicate instances of VAW along with amplifying the rights of marginalised groups such as sex workers. We have been able to establish a good reader base for our magazine and our statistics show our readers sharing our stories and engaging in active and healthy discussions on various contemporary issues.