Founded in 2000, CREA is a feminist human rights organisation based in New Delhi, India. It is one of the few international women's rights organisations based in the global South, led by Southern feminists, which works at the grassroots, national, regional, and international levels. Together with partners from a diverse range of human rights movements and networks, CREA works to advance the rights of women and girls, and the sexual and reproductive freedoms of all people. CREA advocates for positive social change through national and international fora, and provides training and learning opportunities to global activists and leaders through its Institutes.
"CREA has its primary office in New Delhi, India. It works with a 26-person staff team, including three consultants and field staff based in Bihar, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Uttar Pradesh, India, and in Vietnam."
CREA’s mission, goals, and programmes are determined by an analysis of the current global conditions for women, girls, sexual minorities, sex workers, and disabled women. The following are a few key themes that form the context and impetus for CREA’s work. While CREA is unable to directly address all of the challenges set out below, they remain within its frame of reference and inform CREA’s vision, mission, strategies, programmes, and outcomes.
Oppression and silencing
Women and girls in many parts of the world do not have the freedom, the power, or the support to demand their sexual and human rights. On one level, they are silenced and denied the right to make choices around their bodies, sexuality, and lives by oppressive and patriarchal societal structures. On another level, they face violence, discrimination, and exclusion because of the choices they make around their bodies and sexuality. This plays out in a multitude of ways—from lack of access to proper nutrition, education, and employment opportunities, to violence and restricted mobility.
Gender norms and inequality
Traditional practices and customs continue to discriminate against women, even when there are laws in place to protect women’s rights. For example, in India, child marriage and dowry demands continue despite laws forbidding them. In all South Asian countries, a persistent expression of discrimination against women is the son preference syndrome, which has survived and mutated despite economic growth and modernisation. Privatisation and land accumulation in rural areas reduces poor women’s access to common lands, forests, and natural resources, on which their household economies rest.
Violence against women
Gender equality is impossible in a world where at least one in three women faces violence in her lifetime, regardless of her culture, religion, socioeconomic class, or education level. Violence against women and girls remains embedded in our societies, both as a daily reality and a hallmark of crisis situations, perpetrated by State and non-State actors. In an age of terror, war, and conflict, violence against women and girls (including sexual violence) is a pandemic that is regarded by some as an inevitable, if regrettable, consequence of conflict and humanitarian situations. This attitude virtually guarantees impunity for perpetrators and effectively silences the survivors.
Marginalisation and exclusion
The repression of women and their rights, along with that of other communities marginalised on the basis of gender, sexual preference, age, ability, and other such factors, continue to be part of unequal social structures and the lack of freedom that is holding back human development. Marginalisation and discrimination increases at the intersections of gender and other marginalised identities. Exclusion is the segregation of a group of people from the social, political, economic, cultural, educational, and religious domains of societal life. It provides the basis for senses of superiority and inferiority among the members of the same society or culture, and culminates in a system of domination and subjugation, oppression, and exploitation.
Patriarchy and hetero-normativity
The mainstays of the status quo, worldwide, are patriarchy and hetero-normativity. Central to these social situations are marriage, reproduction as the standard of sexual legitimacy, and men’s power and superiority. In many countries, laws and policies stigmatise and criminalise certain sexual preferences and behaviours—homosexual acts, for instance, are an offence in 83 countries around the world. Age of consent legislation penalises consensual sexual relationships in many countries, while under-age and child marriages, dowry demands, and other ostensibly illegal practices continue under the legal radar at the community level. Rather than seeking to change these unjust situations and address the root causes, many civil society interventions provide only band-aid solutions, and their focus remains on heterosexual or married couples. Responses to HIV reflect biomedical perspectives that focus on disease prevention without addressing the underlying power inequalities that impede this goal. Responses to violence against women are often protectionist, with women continuing to be seen as victims, not agents. Rights-affirming approaches to sexuality and gender, based on consent, are little understood or are viewed with hostility.
Rise of fundamentalism
In the current context, fundamentalist ideologies and forces are strengthening in many parts of the world, and reasserting or creating inequalities. Within India, religious fundamentalism is constructing new religious identities, reasserting the caste system, and exacerbating religious divisions. This is leading to new levels of violence between communities and increased inter-community sexual violence against women. Moreover, fundamentalist forces are successfully mobilising women to their causes, representing them as the keepers of traditional culture. Sexual rights are particularly curtailed by fundamentalism, especially the rights of women and those whose sexual preferences and/or gender expressions are not considered legitimate. Same-sex-desiring and transgender people face harassment, intimidation, and extortion, particularly from State authorities.
As long as individuals and social groups, who are subject to marginalisation or exclusion, remain passive and silent, they are not troubled. But, the moment they articulate their exclusion and demand their constitutional and human rights, they are punished by those in power. However, currently, the world is witnessing the rise of a range of new movements for justice and equality, and an assertion of rights claims by the constituencies that the earlier movements had marginalised or ignored—people living with HIV/AIDS, transgender people, gays and lesbians, sex workers, disabled persons, young people, and Muslim women. They challenge both the mainstream women’s movement and other social movements to broaden their political analysis and agendas to be more inclusive and representative. Movements based not on identities, but on shared experiences of exclusion and marginalisation are also gaining ground—for example, sexual rights movements, the Right to Information campaign, the slum dwellers’ movement, movements of displaced, dam- and drought-affected populations, and the movement against global corporate-led capital.
CREA’s work is influenced by a set of convictions that it strongly believes in.
Women have the ability to assert their rights and emerge as leaders
All women have the inherent capacity to exert control over, and make choices about, their bodies and lives. CREA sees itself as a catalyst for this change.
Information is power
Access to information and knowledge about the world, and the changing nature of political and economic structures, contribute to women having greater control over issues that affect their lives. CREA’s publications and resource materials create and increase access to information, knowledge, and scholarship on gender, sexuality, and human rights.
Questioning leads to change
A ‘culture of silence’ prevents many women from articulating their dreams and aspirations, as well as the violations they experience. CREA’s efforts create a culture of questioning, which strengthens women’s abilities to challenge and change the power structures that keep them silent and oppressed.
Working in partnership creates synergy
A collective, collaborative, and inclusive process, which connects individuals and organisations with each other, can enhance learning and action in mutually beneficial ways. CREA works in partnership with organisations, networks, and movements, as well as individual activists, practitioners, and leaders.
CREA is guided by feminist and human rights principles, specifically the following.
- Striving to be a global organisation, while anchoring our core work in India.
- Achieving diversity in internal composition and participation in all programmes and activities.
- Building and extending human rights approaches that are inclusive of marginalised people.
- Affirming the capacity of women, people of sexual minorities, and young people to take control of their lives.
- Upholding the right to information about political, economic, social, and cultural structures that control people’s lives.
- Remaining autonomous from religious, political, state, civic, business, socio-cultural, and donor institutions and structures that oppose the organisational vision.
- Respecting consent, confidentiality, and choice in the work on sexuality, gender, and human rights.
- Working in respectful and mutually beneficial collaborations with individuals, organisations, and movements that share the organisational vision.
- Striving for excellence, accountability, transparency, professionalism, and honesty.
CREA has achieved a distinctive identity based not only on its effective programmes to promote, protect, and advance women’s human and sexual rights, but also on the cutting-edge way it approaches this work. Here are some of the factors that have helped CREA carve out a niche for itself.
- is a feminist, global South organisation, which uses a collaborative, inclusive, and intersectional approach, and works at the grassroots, national, regional, and global levels;
- places choice, consent, and pleasure at the centre of its work to improve the well-being and quality of life of women and girls;
- contests mainstream ideas to advance a feminist, inclusive, and rights-affirming understanding of gender and sexuality in the public domain;
- reframes human rights work as beyond formal rights (enshrined in UN conventions and national laws and policies), to advance the rights work of social movements and communities intervening in unjust systems of power;
- works with young women;
- creates world-class Institutes, both in terms of methodology and materials;
- believes that questioning, suspending judgment, and creativity and creative expression are critical parts of human and societal transformation; and
- consciously implements its politics within its organisational policies and practices.