Invoking Justice

A film by Deepa Dhanraj

India | 2011 | 85 minutes | Color | DVD | Tamil | Subtitled | Order No. 121082


In Southern India, family disputes are settled by Jamaats—all male bodies which apply Islamic Sharia law to cases without allowing women to be present, even to defend themselves. Recognizing this fundamental inequity, a group of women in 2004 established a women’s Jamaat, which soon became a network of 12,000 members spread over 12 districts. Despite enormous resistance, they have been able to settle more than 8,000 cases to date, ranging from divorce to wife beating to brutal murders and more. Award-winning filmmaker Deepa Dhanraj (SOMETHING LIKE A WAR) follows several cases, shining a light on how the women’s Jamaat has acquired power through both communal education and the leaders’ persistent, tenacious and compassionate investigation of the crimes. In astonishing scenes we watch the Jamaat meetings, where women often shout over each other about the most difficult facets of their personal lives. Above all, the women’s Jamaat exists to hold their male counterparts and local police to account, and to reform a profoundly corrupt system which allows men to take refuge in the most extreme interpretation of the Qur’an to justify violence towards women.


“An intimate and inspiring portrayal of the collective action of Muslim sisterhood. This is a particularly important film for our times in that it tells a story that runs counter to the dominant stereotypes about Muslim women.”

Stephen Hughes School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

***1/2 stars, "Combining interviews with footage shot in police stations, communities, and private homes, this engaging and thought-provoking documentary is highly recommended.”

Video Librarian


  • Film Southasia, QFX Jury Award
  • Hawaii International Film Festival
  • San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
  • Asian American International Film Festival
  • Int’l Doc FF Amsterdam (IDFA), International Premiere
  • One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Prague
  • Helsinki Documentary Film Festival


Deepa Dhanraj

A writer and award-winning filmmaker, Deepa Dhanraj has been actively involved in the women's movement – with a focus on political participation, health, and education – for more than four decades. She was one of the founding members of Yugantar, a feminist film collective that produced pioneering films about women's labor and resistance to domestic violence. Working through feminist politics, her extensive filmography spans three decades covering films on the violence and coercion of population control programs, Muslim women's courts that offer petitioners an alternative to patriarchal verdicts issued by Sharia courts, and the rise of Hindu majoritarianism. She has a special interest in education and she has worked extensively with government schools to create pedagogy suited for problems faced by first generation learners who come from Dalit and Adivasi communities. She also teaches video production to women activists and regularly lectures on media theory in both academic and public settings. (1/23)


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