Access to JusticeLegal intervention for empowering the marginalized communities including minorities with a special focus on women
RLEK is implementing Access to Justice Project supported by Department of Justice, GOI- UNDP in fifteen districts of three states in India namely, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The project aims at legally empowering the marginalised communities including minorities with a special focus on women.Nature & Scope of Intervention:
Involving multiple civil society organisations (sensitization and training on Access to Justice and social welfare legislation for the marginalised communities and women), Organizing legal empowerment camps for the target communities, Training of Paralegal workers to support the working of legal services authorities both at the district and the State levels, Organizing legal empowerment rallies and road shows for snow ball effect of the programmeAreas of Intervention:
Orissa- Kalahandi, Gajapati, Phulbani, Cuttack and Sundargarh;
Rajasthan- Udaipur, Bhilwara, Sawai-madhopur, Rajasamand and Chittorgarh; and
Uttar Pradesh- Rampur, Badaun, Kaushambi, Jyotiba Phule Nagar and Hardoi.
For a deeper and wider impact of legal empowerment initiative RLEK is engaging multiple civil society organisations and sensitizing them about the Access to Justice Programme and social welfare legislations for the marginalised communities. As part of the project, RLEK is organizing legal empowerment camps for the marginalised sections and women in the interior tribal pockets of Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The districts and blocks identified by RLEK for intervention in all three states comprise of socially, politically and economically deprived communities. For instance, lanjigarh block in Kalahandi district in Orissa where people are suffering from forest right issues as much talked about controversial Vedanta project is located in that region. Another example is of identifying socially backward tribal Kotda block in Udaipur district in Rajasthan. Similarly, Rampur district representing socially backward minority in Uttar Pradesh. The target population in all the target areas of working has been deprived of social justice and social development.
Training of Paralegal Workers- Major breakthrough in legal empowerment initiative
RLEK is training paralegal workers identified in the target areas to strengthen the legal support system for marginalized communities at the grass root level. These paralegal workers are seen as emerging barefoot community lawyers. Intensive training given to them on socio-legal issues-Fundamental and constitutional rights;
Rights against police atrocities;
rights of SCs & STs against caste based discrimination and atrocities;
MGNREGA, motor vehicles compensation;
Writing RTI application;
Procedure for availing benefits of free legal aid;
Procedure of registering FIR;
Special rights of women;
Prohibition of child marriage;
Prohibition of female feoticide etc.
Paralegals are provided contact numbers of the judicial officers in the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and judicial officers at the at Taluk Legal Services Committee level. Entire channel of grievance is explained to paralegals. Judicial officers attend the trainings and engage in direct interface with the community. It develops community’s faith and confidence in the justice delivery system.
Cadre of paralegals identified and trained is acting as a watchdog and repository of knowledge within their communities. They assist any person victim of any form of injustice by providing immediate legal counseling as way of first aid until appropriate legal action is instituted against the state or non state actor who would have meted out injustice.Key findings and challenges:
Child marriage widely prevalent amongst tribal communities in Orissa and Rajasthan
Social status of women extremely weak, women mostly subjected to domestic violence. This is a common plight of women in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan
Female feoticide high in Rajasthan
100 days employment and entitled payment of Rs.120 still a distant dream for marginalised communities
Tribal communities in Rajasthan do not follow law relating to motor vehicle accident, however, follow their traditional practice called “Motarna” to claim compensation from the accused in cases of severe accidental injuries and death
In Orissa girls and boys even below 18 years of age elope and cohabit together. It results in unwed girls becoming mothers. They are later deserted by their male partners leaving them without any legal status of being married.
Project areas in Orissa are mostly affected with naxal insurgency- reaching out to the target communities in the interior tribal pockets raises safety concerns for the project team.
RLEK’s project team engages in using innovative good practices like conducting situational analysis of the project area, inviting judicial officers and Panchayat functionaries for direct interface with the communities, enacting Nukkad Nattaks, role plays with community participation, use of flashcards depicting pictorial representation of how the target community can access their rights and entitlements, etc. Interns and volunteers from various prestigious law universities like National Law University Orissa, Cuttack; Army Institute of Law, Mohali; Hidaytullah National Law University, Raipur, etc. also participate in legal empowerment camps and perform Nukkad Nattaks on issues pertaining to the rights of the marginalised communities and women.
Post Card Approach: At the end of the legal empowerment camps the project team distributes self addressed postcards of RLEK to the target population. It helps the target community to write and share their socio-legal issues with the project team, following which the project team provides legal counseling to the concerned individual over telephone and by responding to the postcard query. The project team shares the mobile numbers of its team members with the target community so that any participant from the legal empowerment camps who may need legal counseling can call the project team members.
Information Education and Communication (IEC) material including booklets, pamphlets and posters are prepared and printed in simple colloquial language for easy understanding and high receptivity of the target communities. RLEK’s project team also comprises of local volunteers who are well conversant with the local dialects in each state of Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Such local volunteers and trainers are from amongst the local CSOs and the reputes law colleges/universities like National Law University Orissa in the state of Orissa.
Media engagement: RLEK constructively engages media in its campaign of generating awareness amongst marginalised people and women to claim their legal entitlements and access justice more emphatically. Media being a fourth pillar of democracy plays a vital role in highlighting the gap between the reality and legality in the project area.PARALEGAL’S SPEAK
Some paralegal workers in Kandhamal district of Orissa have articulated their motivation and enthusiasm to work as legal first aid practitioners to create legal empowerment amongst the marginalised communities and women.
In my village, young boys create ruckus by indulging in gambling and drinking. They often beat their wives for money to buy alcohol. Until I attended the paralegal training, I did not know about any law concerning domestic violence. I will now try to mobilise women in my village and vicinity and create awareness about procedure of reporting case against domestic violence, said Dibya Devya Digra, a Paralegal from Kandhamal.
I am very happy to know that there exists a law against domestic violence. I will try to create awareness about it and will help any women in need to report incident against domestic violence, said Arati Sahani, a Paralegal from Kandhamal.
On the 2nd day of the paralegal training in the evening, I went to see my relative in a nearby hospital. Coincidentally, I was carrying the legal awareness booklets distributed by RLEK. One lady doctor inquired about the booklet on domestic violence and then I shared the information with the doctor. I also posted the posters distributed by RLEK in my village. I will continue to do so in future, said Milan Sahu, a Paralegal from Kandhamal.