Monday, May 23, 2011

Protecting the rights of women

The Kothamanglam taluk aims to eradicate domestic violence

By Shevlin Sebastian

At the open adalat conducted for victims of domestic violence by the Taluk Legal Service Committee at Kothamangalam, there were several people present. In the crowd, Dr. Lissy Jose, a social worker, noticed a 14-year old girl, Meena, (name changed) who was accompanied by her mother.

“I knew from Meena's body language that there was something wrong,” she says. At an opportune moment Lissy asked Meena, “What has happened?” In response, Meena burst into tears, and ran out of the hall.

The mother is a victim of domestic violence. “Her husband has a tremendous suspicion about her character,” says C.K. George, a lawyer, who is familiar with the case. “He throws her out of the house, and forces her to spend the night outside the door. Meena, an only child, seeing all this, has become traumatised.”

Realising that there are several such incidents, the leaders of three organisations -- the Taluk Legal Service Committee, Kothamangalam Bar Association (KBA), and Liss India, a social service group – stepped forward.

“All of us felt that when the harassed women entered the legal process, it takes a long time and there may be no solution to the danger of the family breaking up,” says T.J. Paul, KBA president.

On March 23, 2010, they set up the Domestic Violence Eradication Mission (DOVE). Through DOVE, they want to create an awareness that it is not right for a man to hit a woman. DOVE also provides legal support and counselling for distressed women. “We also conduct public adalats to solve disputes and grievances,” says Paul Varghese, KBA secretary.

This type of initiative became imperative because in Kothamangalam taluk, out of every 100 families, in more than 50 per cent there are instances of domestic violence. “I blame the rampant alcoholism among the men,” says Lissy. “Most of them are uneducated also. They take out their frustrations on the wife.”

The DOVE Mission project report had been sent to the National Legal Service Authority in New Delhi. The executive chairperson, Justice Altamas Kabir, commended it, and sanctioned Rs 5 lakh as financial assistance.

Meanwhile, there are plans by the legal service committee, under the chairmanship of Dinesh. M. PIllai, Judicial Magistrate, Kothamangalam, to start a ‘KUTTI-DOVE Mission’ to eradicate domestic violence among children.

“The aim of both these programmes is to have a domestic violence-free taluk,” says T.J Paul. “I know it is a difficult task.” To paraphrase what a leading Kerala politician once said, “Where there is a family, there will always be domestic violence.”

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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