Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Profile of Sri Lankan Marini de Livera: a lawyer and a ‘Woman Of Courage’

May 23, 2019

REBECCA ELLIS published a profile of Marini de Livera under the title “She’s A Lawyer … A Thespian … And Now A State Department ‘Woman Of Courage‘”

Marini de Livera’s plays are not for the faint of heart. In her home country of Sri Lanka, the pro bono lawyer has found that crimes against women and children often take place behind closed doors — in homes, orphanages and schools. With her traveling theater group, de Livera seeks to shed light on the human rights abuses in her country by putting the violence on stage, front and center. “There are beautiful laws in the law books,” she says. “But when I went out to the slums, to the rural areas, to conflict-ridden areas, I found what is in the law books is not a practical reality.”

A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, de Livera has spent her career using theater to ensure that the lofty lessons she learned in law school can be used to assist Sri Lankans who are unlikely to ever see an attorney. Her dedication to helping women and child victims of crime has made her one of the 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage award [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/].

De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She spoke with NPR about her creative approach to addressing human rights in her country, and why she’s focusing on using her theater training to better the situation of children in Sri Lanka’s orphanages.

What are some of the legal issues that women and children in Sri Lanka need help with?

Women and children are denied justice if they’re uneducated, and if they live in rural areas. They don’t enjoy the same basket of human rights that privileged people have because they don’t have access to lawyers.

What needs to happen to accomplish that?

There has to be legal literacy. These women and children have to know what the laws in the country are and what their human rights are. If they are educated about their rights, they can go to court and demand them.

You’ve often used theater to promote this legal literacy in Sri Lanka. Can you give me an example of how this works?

One of my favorite plays I put on was about corporal punishment. I went to a Catholic school where a priest was hitting boys every day. I explained to the school that there are different forms of violence – cultural violence, psychological violence, physical violence. Then I asked the boys to make a play about their experiences with violence. And one of the boys reenacted what the priest had done to him. [It helped] these boys find an outlet to say, “We don’t want to kneel down when we come late to school. We don’t want to be beaten by a cane.”

How did you come to see theater as a way to educate the public on their legal rights?

I had been a lecturer in law [in Sri Lanka], and one of the things I had to teach was U.K. law principles. And the students were bored to death. So I said, these are the books, you read, then you tell me what the rule of law and separation of powers are through a performance. I realized if I could use this in the classroom, why not in the village to simplify the law?

What is your theater group working on now?

I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.

Past reports have found that over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. These parents are often unable to provide for their children or the child has a disability and requires extra care. And sometimes the children are sent to such an institution because of a criminal offense.

Orphanages should be the last resort. So I’m promoting alternative care. Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.

You mentioned earlier that this prize is the first time in your life you felt appreciated for “walking in the opposite direction” from others in the law profession. Do you have hopes other attorneys will follow in your path?

I’m very unhappy to say each time I go to court people come up to me like a swarm of flies and say, “We don’t have a lawyer to appear on behalf of us.” I want to take all the country’s young attorneys and train them to be another Marini – to clone myself. Because I have to hand this on to the younger generation.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/08/701212104/shes-a-lawyer-a-thespian-and-now-a-state-department-woman-of-courage

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson takes the stage

April 19, 2015

Geoffrey Robertson at home in London.

Geoffrey Robertson at home in London. Photo: Kitty Gale

The Sydney Morning Herald of 17 April 2015 announces a series of public performances “Dreaming Too Loud” by the well-known British-Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. They will take place at Sydney’s City Recital Hall on 2 May, in Perth on 4 May, at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on 5 May, in Adelaide on 8 May, Brisbane on 12 May and Canberra on 13 May.

A barrister entertaining a theatre audience? Well, the introductory piece (see some extracts below) certainly makes it sound like a very interesting event and I would not mind attending if Australia were just a bit closer! Also the proceeds go to two human rights NGOs including the International Service for Human Rights.

About his own performance: “Dr Johnson’s comment after watching a performing dog walking on its hind legs: it’s not that it’s done well, it’s the fact that it’s done at all“.

It will be an opportunity to explain the importance of human rights and how Australia might better contribute to them. I can reminisce about my own visits to death row and my times with torturers, and bring the latest news from the Ecuadorian Embassy.[Robertson was Assange’s lawyer] But I can also tell tales of Linda Lovelace and Mike Tyson and the Sex Pistols, and others I have defended.  It will not be a night of doom and gloom, so long as I can suppress my tendency to talk about the Australian Constitution.

……

I have played roles in front of large audiences. During the run of Hypotheticals on the ABC, I was a man of many parts – General Bulldoza, Sergeant Doberman, Senator Gladhand, Amanda Autocue, Lester Gallop, Judge Knott, Kerry Murfax. Those names worked to avoid libel writs from the identities on whom they were based. For younger readers, incidentally, Hypotheticals were unrehearsed Socratic dialogues in which sixteen or so luminaries would sit around a horseshoe table and play themselves in imaginary scenarios of my devising. I had John Howard sit on the toilet, wondering whether to rub out the racist graffiti on the cubicle door or complain to the attendant, who was Charlie Perkins. I had George Pell give the kiss of life to a gay man, and Gareth Evans invaded Tasmania. ..

Hypotheticals was meant to challenge the 60 Minutes adage that “if it’s not visual, it’s not a story”. The important decisions in the real world are seldom set against glorious sunsets. They are made by people (usually men) in suits, with notebooks, sitting around a table in a nondescript room, with a few potted plants and a picture of the incumbent President – the momentousness of the decision is generally in an inverse relationship to the splendour of the surroundings in which it is made. Hence the Hypotheticals stage, with its table and notepads, must approximate to the workaday world, where an editor or take-over merchant or torturer selects the next victim. The object of the programme was to show how important decisions are made, in a way never revealed in studio interviews or press conferences.

Dreaming Too Loud will have neither props nor glorious sunsets. My thespian debut will be sandwiched between work assignments – an effort to reclaim the Elgin Marbles, lectures on the Armenian genocide and the defence of the former Prime Minister of Mauritius.

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/geoffrey-robertsons-dreaming-too-loud-a-barrister-takes-the-stage-20150414-1mjwtk.html#ixzz3XjvzBkwO

 

Geoffrey Robertson’s Dreaming Too Loud: a barrister takes the stage.

Local AI Group to read stories from Afghan women human rights defenders

May 17, 2014

The cast in rehearsal SUS-140705-113925001

(The cast in rehearsal SUS-140705-113925001)

Sometimes it is good to look at how people can support human rights defenders elsewhere. Here an example from West Sussex, UK, where – using a script compiled exclusively from the first-hand accounts of Afghan women human rights defendersCrawley’s Pitchy Breath Theatre Group voices testimony, underlining the risks to women’s freedom posed by any resurgence of the Taliban. The reading – on Monday 19 May – will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues raised with Chris Usher, Amnesty International UK’s Country Co-ordinator for Afghanistan. There will also be the opportunity to take part in actions in support of Afghan women. This event forms part of Amnesty International UK’s campaign on women’s rights in Afghanistan. The local AI Group are hoping that “Even If We Lose Our Lives” can inspire the local community and contribute to more action protecting these women and the rights they are fighting fight for.

[Afghan women are too often portrayed as faceless, passive victims who are powerless to change the grave human rights abuses which regularly affect them. The script is based on the actual accounts of three women – Parween, whose teenage son was kidnapped and killed because she runs a girls’ school, Dr D, a gynaecologist whose son was injured in a bomb blast, and Manizha, who runs the largest Afghan organisation working on violence against women and girls at great personal cost.]

via Group to read stories from Afghan women – West Sussex County Times.