My main role at Women in Black (WIB) has been to create a video archive of interviews of WIB activists. The goal of this project is to leave WIB with the ability to tell the story of their whole WIB Serbia network, rather than just focus on the few individuals in the main Belgrade office. It is also to have some memory of each individual activist to hold on to. WIB will be able to make use of the videos in whatever way they deem necessary in the future, whether it be a documentary film about their activists or short video clips for their website.
Yesterday Donna and I interviewed a very knowledgeable law professor and dean, Vesna Vodinelic, at a private law university in Belgrade. She made an important point during her interview that I’d like you to watch below.
It’s interesting to see the two sides of law, and how one has so often been abused. While it’s sad to admit, we can’t deny that law is partially used for the government to control its people. But the important side of law, in my opinion, is the one that works to protect its citizens. Laws should be in place to ensure that citizens are granted all the rights they deserve, to ensure that murderers are not allowed to freely roam the streets and harm others, and to ensure that one can choose how to live one’s life, freely and happily.
But even the issue of using law to protect citizens can be problematic: who gets to determine how citizens should be protected? Should they be protected from individuals that incite hate or is that a limitation on free speech? Is it okay for the government to protect citizens from truth about imminent danger in order to avoid panic? Where do we draw the line?
Furthermore, it is appalling how frequently the law has been abused in order to suppress a country’s people; or how often the protectors of law are complicit in horrific crimes. For example, the law still does not allow homosexuals to marry spouses of their choosing in most areas of the world, including the majority of states in the U.S. The law has turned a blind eye in too many countries when minority groups have been abused and tortured. Women in many African countries do not have the legal rights to own any land, making them forever dependent on men, often leading widows and their children to live in poverty. Laws in Afghanistan actually prohibit women from seeing male doctors without the accompaniment of a close male relative. But since women in Afghanistan are also forbidden from becoming doctors, too many Afghan women unnecessarily die during child birth.
While it is clear that laws should not be in place for governments to abuse their people, the question still remains: what is the perfect relationship between the state and its citizenry? And how can we stop the abuse of law that is taking place in too many countries around the world today?
Posted By Simran Sachdev
Posted Jun 26th, 2009