The two-day session on understanding violence against women: These sessions were facilitated by Gowri from Karnataka Jana Shakthi and Akhila from JMS.
The first day was attended by about 35 women karyakartas and the discussions focused on:
1. The hierarchical nature of society (Power walk) where the key messages were:
- Those in power make the rules in society which the others have to follow.
- Those in power are men, those from savarna caste, those who are wealthy, those who are able-bodied and so on. The rules are unfair meant to keep the poor, women, dalits, without opportunities for moving ahead.
2. Understanding gender differences: Small group work listing characteristics of men and women. Key messages:
- Of all the characteristics listed by all of you, we found that only __ were truly distinct to men and women, which are biological differences. All other differences are those that are set by family and society. These social and cultural norms and rules are harmful not only to girls and women but also to boys and men.
3. Understanding different forms of violence and thinking through what we should do as a sanghtan: Discussion of four case studies illustrating different situations and different forms of violence. Key messages:
- Violence is about using one’s superior power to control those less powerful. There are different forms of violence. Many times it is not very obvious. Whatever and whoever perpetuates inequality, discrimination is a form of violence. Sometimes it could be the family, the larger society, the government and so on.
On the second day, about 45 women visited Manvi police station for an interaction with the Circle Inspector and the PSI. They explained the processes and procedures at the police station and what they do when a woman comes to report a crime. They said that every police station has a woman’s cell that is managed by the WPC, that a woman files her report through the WPC, that male policemen cannot question a woman without the presence of a WPC and so on. Women raised questions that there have been instances where those at the police station had avoided making out an FIR, that they have had to wait for hours sometimes as late as 10 pm. The PSI however outright refused to acknowledge such problems. Women asked questions about what their role is when they report domestic violence. The PSI and circle inspector said that they are very well-versed with the DV Act but presently they try and ‘counsel’ the husband! This raised women’s hackles and they demanded to know how they can merely ‘counsel’ a man who has been beating up and engaging in other atrocities on the woman. “It takes us so much effort to walk up the steps of the police station. We expect that you will slap him and instill some fear in the men. Instead all you do is counsel and give him some advice!” The Circle inspector pointed out that they cannot raise their hand as per the law. In fact it is people like you who have held us back using force, he pointed out. He agreed that DV was a serious issue and that they also need to understand the Act better. He offered to organize another interaction session with a woman lawyer to explain the provisions of the DV Act. Women then raised the issue of shops selling alcohol. The police expressed their helplessness that the law allows an individual to keep upto 5 liters of alcohol. They however said that if someone is keeping more than the amount they could raid the premises. They urged women to create awareness about the ill-effects of drinking alcohol. So long as the demand exists it is difficult to control supply, the Circle inspector opined. It was pointed out that the Government was actually increasing supply by allowing sale of liquor in provision stores.
The feedback about the first day was mixed. It was largely felt that some of the key messages did not go through. Some felt it was something known to all. It would have been better to focus on why violence and the laws that protect women against violence. The second day interaction at the police station was greatly appreciated. They felt that having visited the police station as JMS, it gave them increased confidence to seek help and could always use this visit as a reference in their future interactions with the police.
After the meeting in the police station JMS sanchalakis accompanied Neelavathi to meet her lawyer about the case she had filed against her father demanding maintenance. This meeting was also to impress upon the lawyer that she was not fighting the case alone but had the support of the sanghatan. He explained that he had initially filed for maintenance but will escalate it to a share in property soon. He said the Court had fixed a hearing on the 4th and suggested she also be present. The hearing however was postponed to another date.
Akhila and E. Premdas Pinto