New Internationalist

From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers

May 2004

Feminism is alive, well and fighting fit. Well, at least in Southall, a West London suburb. Southall Black Sisters (SBS) is an Asian feminist group which has boldly gone where few others have dared, straddling that difficult terrain where race and gender intersect. They have fought legal battles for individual women living in terror and have helped change lives.

The ‘timeline’ that opens this stimulating collection is impressive enough, listing a string of actions, campaigns and legal challenges mounted from 1979 through to the present day. In her foreword, the leading barrister and now baroness Helena Kennedy pays tribute to SBS for being her ‘mentors’.

Written by members of the group, From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers deals cogently and passionately with a range of burning issues: fundamentalism, forced marriages, violence against women, religious schools, immigration laws, refugee women and deportation.

It does not shy away from asking provocative questions. How has multiculturalism served us? What are the benefits of forging political alliances? Are religious schools for minority groups a progressive initiative? Should we fight our battles in courts, government committees or out on the streets?

If one group has enriched the political landscape to such an extent, and continues to make inroads into the way we see the world and black women within it, imagine the effect that even a dozen such groups could have! Prepare to be inspired!

Shaila Shah

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 367 This column was published in the May 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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