Project Bulletin #05

The fifth edition of the Project Bulletin is here! Project Bulletin helps our readers reconnect with our past and ongoing projects so that as our projects and partnerships grow, our readers have a sense of continuity about our work.

This edition of the Project Bulletin recaps the linked projects Body of Evidence & Stepping Stones: Engaging with Youth in South Asia, which built upon the work of the Sexual Violence and Impunity (SVI) project.  


Project(s) Background

Body of Evidence and Stepping Stones, in combination, aimed at starting dialogue with youth about sexual violence through a combination of rigorous research with creative expression like theatre, art, and poetry, with the hope that youth become active and key champions against sexual violence.

Our longtime partners Goethe-Institut / MMB supported the Body of Evidence project. Stepping Stones was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the work was based in India (Zubaan) and Nepal (Panos South Asia).

The projects acknowledge the seriousness of misinformation amongst young people about sexual conduct and sexual violence, topics that youth are encouraged not to discuss openly, and instead repress.

Therefore, to create space for these conversations in an accessible and inclusive ways, theatre, slam poetry and performance were deployed to reach out to, for example, young students and professionals focussing on medical, forensic and legal forms of sexual violence and impunity.

Some of the material generated

Participatory workshops, open studios, artwork, etc, resulted in fifty performances and documentary screenings across the projects’ locations: Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Delhi, Kathmandu, and Pokhara. These performances took place in universities, law schools, medical colleges, and other institutions to engage the projects’ target audience.

Dalit, queer, and indigenous illustrators also used the twenty-six English and forty-nine Nepali alphabets to interpret concepts linked to impunity for sexual violence, and the fight against it. This feminist typographic project is The Alphabet of Violence & Resistance and is open for public viewing as part of a permanent archive.

Creative practitioners with the Body of Evidence-Stepping Stones projects (in India and Nepal) used performing arts like theatre and slam poetry as a medium to invoke and challenge structures of impunity. Sister projects across South Asia, also funded by the IDRC, had youth and community-led research programmes, and more. You can read about these projects in greater detail here.

In January 2020, a two-day showcase of performances, poetry, documentaries and artwork questioning impunity took place in New Delhi. Fourteen groups of the projects’ artists put up seventeen performances, and a discussion with the performers followed each session.

The extended final phase of the work had to be adapted when the pandemic began, and activities shifted to the digital medium. Part of this online programming was the October 2020 launch of I Am Property, a documentary that explores polygyny and impunity in the context of Arunachal Pradesh’s customary laws.

The screening was followed by a discussion on gender and rights in indigenous communities, and customary institutions. The documentary was also the official selection at Northeast International Documentary and Film Festival 2023.