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Inaugural lecture inspires, gender issues addressed

By Danielle Gross
On February 5, 2013

This past Wednesday, Juhu Thukral, director of law and advocacy at the Opportunity Agenda, spoke on gender rights at the inaugural Anita Hill Lecture for Gender and Justice.

The lecture series was named after Prof. Anita Hill (Heller) due to her notoriety following her testimony against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at his confirmation hearings. Hill made allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas. Following the hearings, Hill has constantly motivated victims of sexual harassment to speak out.

Provost Steve Goldstein '78 made opening remarks in which he discussed the appropriateness of naming of the lecture series for Hill.

"Anita understands the deep connection between truth and justice, and between deceit and injustice. She reminds us by her example that injustice is overcome only when it is exposed, and that this requires not just honesty, but courage," said Goldstein.

Thukral introduced herself as an Indian immigrant, and explained that coming from a culture where there are such large gender differences is one of the main reasons she was inspired to begin her crusade for gender justice.

Appropriately, her lecture was titled "Gender. Sex. Money. New Frontiers in the Fight for Sexual Rights." The main subject was gender-based violence and sexual violence, specifically how they relate to human trafficking.

Currently, society is moving away from women's rights and realizing that men too have gendered experience, said Thukral. Gendered experience means that men too get discriminated against and harassed, whereas law usually focuses on just women being oppressed. It is no more a fight for women's rights, but a fight for gender and human rights, said Thukral. The experiences of one gender affect the other, so it is more prudent to focus on everyone rather than one group of the population, she said.

Thukral went on to discuss how to improve these issues. "There is always room to improve, and right now there is little agreement on how we solve these issues, and how we create a world where equality, dignity and justice are real for everyone, especially around sexual and gender-based violence."
Thukral's final point was on how we can make these changes. With more funding, mass mobilization and the means to rebuild lives after someone has been trafficked, said Thukral, a large part of these issues will be solved.

The lecture then went into a question and answer session. One of the questions focused on how society can shift its ways of thinking without contradicting itself, while another one questioned where we would be able to obtain funding for these proposed solutions, and yet another one asked how celebrities play positive or negative roles in the jobs of advocates.

In an interview with the Justice, Li Tian, a first year Ph.D student at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, said that the lecture was inspiring.

"For social policy to play out in the real world, we need to integrate research and advocacy much better than how we do right now," said Tian. "This whole lecture was really helpful and inspiring towards the necessary integration."

Hill and University President Frederick Lawrence gave closing remarks for the lecture. Hill summed up the point of the lecture, saying, "Bravery is not something that you do just once; it's the choices that you make in life, and how your live your life. It's how you use your talents and how you see your work in advancing the lives of others."

The series was sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Women's and Gender Studies program, the African and Afro-American Studies department, the Heller School, Soapbox Inc. and the Office of the President. Soapbox Inc. is one of the leading sources and advocate groups for feminism today.  

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