By Yashaswini Basu
The National Family Health survey (NFHS-5), released its fifth survey early last year, which reveals that for the first time in India’s history, our populace has more women than men. While this data is encouraging, a look at the complaints registers of the National Commission for Women (NCW) presents a rather grim reality.
Complaints of crimes against women received by the NCW soared by 46 per cent in the first eight months of 2021. As high as 83.8 per cent of women in specific States justify violent behavior from their spouses. Violence against women is a bitter reality and continues to be prevalent across the country, despite an established framework of laws for their prevention and remedies for survivors.
There remains a wide gap between the law in theory and practice, which becomes all the more pronounced when it comes to women, especially from marginalized communities. While traditional patriarchal structures and social stigmas complicate women’s access to justice, the laws in themselves can often be alienating, intimidating and even inaccessible. This necessitates amplifying knowledge about legal rights and entitlements available to women in any adverse situation.
As an organisation dedicated to explaining India’s laws in simple and actionable formats, Nyaaya strives to create greater awareness about legal rights and over the last year, through the Nyaaya Naari initiative, Nyaaya has built a repository of legal explainers, guides, templates and audio-video resources that focuses wholly on women. It informs women and young girls about the laws that protect them and provides them with actionable information and on ground assistance on enforcing these rights.
Furthering Nyaaya Naari’s mission of demystifying laws for women, Nyaaya launched a campaign, #SheInCharge to empower women with actionable legal information on ending violence at home and workplaces. Spanning across the week leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, #SheinCharge comprised of information enabling actions against domestic violence and sexual harassment at workplace.
It facilitated a women for women messaging through which stalwarts from diverse walks of life shared messages of encouragement for women in situations of vulnerability. #SheinCharge presented granular information about the legal protections available to any survivor of domestic violence.
With 1 in every 3 women in India falling prey to domestic violence, the mere existence of a law does not provide adequate safeguards. Actionable information on standing up to domestic violence with law by your side can potentially embolden a survivor to become a changemaker. In that context, Nyaaya created a district wise guide on protection against domestic violence for Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. This guide lists the legal rights available to women who have suffered violence ranging from:
What actions constitute violence within the provisions of the Act,
What types of compensations may be claimed,
What protections can be sought from the court,
Who can be the first responder to a complaint of violence,
Verified lists of helplines and support persons in each district in the city, explainers on laws related to domestic violence, and much more.
While our guide empowers women facing violence to navigate the legal process effectively, there are many who endure implicit forms of abuse and violence on a daily basis. To help them take charge of the situation, Nyaaya spoke to eminent family lawyer, advocate Mrunalini Deshmukh on what are the most important things a woman needs to bear in mind while ending an abusive relationship.
Whether it is the right to reside in a shared household with legal protection or the right to getting compensation for finding an alternative accommodation, advocate Deshmukh describes the options available to a survivor of domestic violence. She spoke about the evidence, documents and belongings every woman should hold on to when embarking on a fight against abuse.
Abuse is not limited to the household. Today, we see the rise of women in workplaces being mirrored by the increase in instances of sexual harassment at workplaces. This, despite the fact that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplaces (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH) is almost a decade old.
To address the lapses in the enforcement of the act and assess the development in the law since its enactment, we spoke with POSH expert, Pallavi Pareek. In 2021, Pallavi and Nyaaya had collaboratively prepared a comprehensive guide for survivors of workplace harassment.
Taking stock of the developments since then and responding to the questions our audience had sent us on the guide, Pallavi discussed how institutions can facilitate better reporting mechanisms and how to navigate the nuances of consent and duress in a professional relationship. She also interacted with the audience to ideate on more appropriate ways to make workplaces safer for women.
International Women’s Day has, in many ways, become an affirmation of the power of women and rightfully so. But, to ensure we do not leave those women behind who might be feeling powerless and vulnerable, Nyaaya Naari stands as an all encompassing resource for women to access and approach justice mechanisms in any situation of need.
#Sheincharge was a reinforcement of the values envisaged by Nyaaya Naari and as Anisha Gopi, the Team Lead of Nyaaya states, “ #SheinCharge is more than a source of legal information. It’s a ‘Women for Women’ initiative inspiring and enabling women to take charge of their lives."
Yashaswini Basu is the Outreach Lead at Nyaaya.
Vidhispeaks is a fortnightly column on law and policy curated by Vidhi. The views expressed are of the fellow and do not reflect the views of Vidhi or Bar & Bench.