“We will not keep quiet. Women should get justice.”
SFC Community Paralegal, Bihar, India
Sisters For Change recognises that marginalised rural women often do not turn to the formal criminal justice system when they suffer crimes of violence or abuse. This may be because they cannot access formal justice authorities due to distance, cost or fear. It may also be because they do not trust public authorities like the police or prosecutors. Or it may be because informal or alternative local justice systems offer what they consider a more reliable and speedy form of relief.
For this reason, we work to build the capacity of informal justice system mechanisms where they seek to support women and girl victims of violence. The story below, written by a Hindi-language media outlet in Bihar, shows the impact we are making in Northern India.
“Women Court helped in fight for freedom”
Anjana was ill-treated in her marital family because they believed she was not beautiful; Renu suffered the same abuse but the reason for ill-treatment was dowry. The list doesn’t end here; there are dozens of similar women whom the ‘Nari Adalat’ (Women’s Court) helped in order to raise their voice against injustice and violence.
These Nari Adalats, usually held under a tree, have now spread in reputation across borders. This model of addressing injustice is not only been adopted in foreign countries but is being assisted in order to strengthen and ensure they operate according to domestic regulation and law.
The rural women who run the Nari Adalats do not have law degrees and haven’t received any real legal training, but are experts in terms of supporting women to get justice. In two years, the Nari Adalat have disposed of over 2,500 cases, most of which relate to domestic violence and harassment of women and girls.
A team from London, Sisters For Change, came to the district with the view to training these women on rights and related legal knowledge. The idea was to give them specific knowledge and training on women’s rights and law to enhance and strengthen their performance.
The women formed a team composed of Nari Adalat members from Kudni, Mushhari, Orai, Bandara and other blocks in Muzaffapur district, and Sisters For Change trained them on the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, laws relating to sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, women’s rights, and other related laws and procedures.
High court advocate and a member of National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (a partner of Sisters For Change), Ms. Gauri Kumari said that the women who run the Nari Adalat don’t have degrees but dispose of hundreds of cases. The Sisters For Change programme builds their capacity and confidence so that they can serve women better and increase their decision-making authority.