Poverty is increasing worldwide, but it doesn't affect everyone with the same intensity: it hits women and children hardest.

In response to dire poverty faced by women around the world, the People's Movement Assembly launched the World Courts of Women on Poverty, to be held this spring in four U.S. cities -- Oakland, Louisville, Detroit and Philadelphia.

"Here, in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, poverty, unemployment, hunger and homelessness continue to grow."On March 24, the U.S. Social Forum announced that the events will take place. The first will be in Oakland May 10-13. Dates for the others have not yet been established.

Since 1992, 37 of these courts have been held around the world.

"Most Courts have focused on specific clusters of issues that are especially relevant to their regions, but they have shared the common aims of destabilizing dominant narratives and bringing the realities of the everyday violence in people's lives to the forefront," according to Meaghan Russell, of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. "Speakers bear witness to many injustices, but the Courts are also about empowerment and the validation of women's diverse experiences and subject positions, and in this spirit, they have often featured music, dance, poetry, and visual art - different ways of giving testimony."

The Nuremberg Trials and U.N. trials are the inspiration for the courts' structure.

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be a fundamental document for the U.S. Courts, which seek, in part, to point out how the United States brandishes this declaration at other nations but does not follow its prescriptions within its own borders," Russell says.

These courts are "moral, not judicial," ones, according to Russell. Resisters and survivors, plus expert witnesses and jurors, will provide testimony, as will expert witnesses, and the jurors "will then offer their own perspectives on the issues raised."

The sponsor of the southern court, in Louisville, is Women in Transition.
"There couldn't be a more critical time for us to have a World Court on Women that focuses on poverty."
"Here, in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, poverty, unemployment, hunger and homelessness continue to grow, and there couldn't be a more critical time for us to have a World Court on Women that focuses on poverty," says Russell.

The courts will "expose the fundamental links between economic conditions and various problems that disproportionately affect poor people, such as incarceration and domestic violence," Russell asserts. "We want to draw attention to the ever-expanding gap between the rich and poor, and how corporate greed and the steady dismantling of the safety net enlarge this gap and further erode already dismal standards of living."

Russell says the courts' "goal is to ensure that immigrants, people in drug and alcohol recovery, ex-offenders, teenage mothers, survivors of domestic violence, homeless people and women workers are all included in the Court."

Linda Greene can be reached at lgreene@bloomington.in.us.


For more information
Frequent updates on the courts appear at World Courts of Women on Poverty in the U.S.