Contact:	Suzanne Trimel					For immediate release
		(212) 854-6579					March  17, 1998

Domestic Violence Among South Asian Immigrants Topic of April 4 Conference at St. John's University

Religious leaders, social workers, health professionals, scholars and womens' activists will participate in a daylong conference Saturday, April 4, on domestic violence in the South Asian immigrant community jointly sponsored by Columbia and St. John's universities. The conference, organized by the Dharma Hinduja Indic Research Center at Columbia and several departments at St. John's and to be held at Bent Hall at St. John's, is open to the public. The conference fee is $15, or $20 if received after March 27. The hours are 8:45 A.M. to 5 P.M. Call (212) 854-5300 to make a reservation. "This is an opportunity for individuals and organizations in the metropolitan New York area to focus on how domestic violence affects the South Asian community and to build community coalitions around this important issue," said Sandhya Nankani, the conference coordinator. Ms. Nankani, coordinator of special projects for the Dharam Hinduja Center at Columbia, said topics for discussion will include the role of religious institutions in preventing domestic violence and aiding victims, strategies for building effective community coalitions, the role of men in the South Asian community; the effects of domestic violence on second generation South Asians, domestic violence against the elderly, disabled and gays and lesbians, and legal and social challenges faced by battered women. Ms. Nankani said women in immigrant communities may be particularly vulnerable to an abusive mate. "They feel uncertainty about their legal and resident status within their new country and they often are wholly dependent on a spouse financially. The set of issues are unique for immigrants. And, you have the atmosphere of secrecy and shame in which there is a great divide between public and private ... the idea that what goes on within my house is my business. And many women simply do not know where to find help -- or do not know that it is available." The conference, said Ms. Nankani, is also an effort to educate health professionals who work in South Asian communities but may be unfamiliar with cultural and social traditions, such as arranged marriages. To deal with the problem of domestic violence, many women's groups have organized over the last decade within areas where South Asian populations are significant. These include Sakhi in New York City and Manavi in Union, N.J., the oldest South Asian women's group in the United States. The religious traditions within the South Asian community -- Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Roman Catholic -- are viewed as an important link in helping battered women. A session about this relationship is scheduled for 10:15 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. Participants will be Dr. Helen E. Sheehan of the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology and Dr. Habibeh Rahaim of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, both at St. John's; Dr. Mary McGee of the Religion Department at Columbia; Ruksana Ayyub of the Long Island Islamic Center; Chan Jamoona of the Arya Spiritual Center; Gagandeep Kaur of the Sikh Women's International Organization; Prema Vora of Sakhi for South Asian Women, and the Rev. John Mendonca of Mary Queen of Heaven Roman Catholic Church. The conference is co-sponsored by Marine Midland Bank, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, New York Asian Women's Center, and Pragati Inc. Special assistance was received from Catholic Charities, Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, and the Queens Borough President's Task Force Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Other organizations participating in the conference are: New York City Anti-Violence Project; Asian-Indian Women in America; South Asian Youth Action, and the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. This document is available at 3.17.98 19,294