‘It is your fight. Take the initiative’

Domestic workers are often clueless on legal aid available to them at times of crisis. The meet was organised to help them understand what can be done.

Domestic Workers’ rights union organised a public meeting in association with support groups Stree Jagruthi Samithi, APSA and Hengasara Hakkina Sangha (HHS) on March 13, 2012. The meeting was held at SCM house, Bangalore.

Domestic Workers at the public meeting. Pic: Anisha Nair

The meet was organised to address the concerns of the Domestic workers. Around 50 domestic workers came to voice their problems of domestic violence at their homes and workplaces from across the city.

The panel of experts comprised of B S Bharathi Devi – Protection officer from Department of Women and child development, Aarti Mundkur – Lawyer, Sudha – Counsellor and Leena Kumari – Women’s rights activist of Mahila Samakhya, Mysore.

Around 10 domestic workers came forward and spoke about the problems that they face in their homes. Problems like being beaten up by husbands, pending divorce cases, physical and mental torture, etc were addressed by the panelists.

Shantamma, 25, a domestic worker says, "my husband is demanding divorce as he is in a relationship with some other women. He comes home drunk and beats me. Also demands money from me for drinking." Many other women also shared similar grievances with the panel and asked for solutions.

Shantamma had earlier filed a petition against her husband but failed to take it further due to lack of knowledge on laws and how are these laws and FIRs helpful.

Panalists (from left) Aarti, Sudha, Bharathi Devi, Leena Kumari. Pic: Anisha Nair

Shantamma was advised to follow up on her petition through her lawyer. The women were also told about how the law works and how to go about it. One of the important lessons that day was figuring out the jurisdiction of police stations. Experts explained that they can find out under which jurisdiction they can file their cases from list outside police stations that states which area comes under which jurisdiction.

Experts also shared details of NGOs that can support and how to approach them.

Aarti Mundukar, lawyer, said, "Don’t just keep the petitions in your hand. Go to your lawyers and ask them to send notices to the concerned people. It is your fight. Take the initiative."

B S Bharathi Devi, Protection officer from department of Women and child development said, "go to the officials and demand your rights. If you prove to be weak in front of them, they will take you for a ride. Be strong and demand justice."

The meeting ended with a note to address issues of domestic violence against women. The union would submit the list of recommendations that were made during the meeting to the concerned government departments.

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