Support For Battered Women In Maharashtra
Manisha Takle with volunteers of Aadhar Group
Four years ago, Savita Kamble, a 40 years old Zila Parishad School teacher, was found unconscious in a field in Dombri village in Beed district of Maharashtra. Her hair was cut, nose and ears had cut marks and many of her body parts were bleeding. After she was treated at a local hospital for a week, she could explain that she was abused by her husband, an ex military man. This was not the first time, she was beaten up brutally. Her husband had been abusing her daily but that day he had crossed limits of cruelty. Seeta Bansod and other 10 members of Aadhar Gat (Support Group) of the village heard the news and reached to Savita in the hospital. They counselled and convinced her to file a complaint in a local police station. Savita who was reluctant to file a case earlier, filed the complaint, approached court and won it as well. Her husband, alcoholic, died in a jail while serving the sentence. Savita today teaches at the school and takes care of her three sons. If Aadhar Gat members did not reach to Savita in time, she would have died. Chandra Kate (name is changed) is in a hospital at Devgaon village of Beed district. Her in laws poured boiling oil on her hands as she could not bring ten thousand from her parents. Currently local members of Devgaon Aadhar Gat are counselling Chandra on how to go ahead with a police complaint. Women in the families of backward and Dalits across Marathwada of Maharashtra face domestic violence in different forms in the hands of husband or in laws. And traditionally women are expected to bear with problems including violence they face at the house of their in- laws. Many a time women are thrown out of the houses with nowhere to go. Manisha Tokle, 41 years old activist in Beed, who confronted this reality during her 20 years of struggle for land rights of poor, women’s right and so on. She decided to found groups to whom women in distress can approach. As she knew that poor implementation of DV Act, absence of safe government shelter homes and no women officers at police stations keep women away from legal system. Somebody needed to take a step to offer support to women. Four years ago, she founded groups called Aadhar Gats in more than 200 villages of Beed district. Each group has 15-20 members, men and women both. Manisha and her team trained teams how to counsel women in distress, how to file complaints, what is Domestic Violence Act and how to approach court if it is needed. “I have network of activists Beed, Latur district of Marathwada. When I decided to found Aadhar Gats, many of them came forward voluntarily,” says Manisha. She explains process to rehabilitate women in problem, “initially we offer support to a woman who is being abused. For a week, she is not in the condition to understand anything. Once she returns to normalcy, we approach her family and counsel them. If family is in no mood to listen we seek help from elders or Sarpanch of the village. Most of the time problems get solved at this stage.” If in-laws and husbands are too stubborn, the local Aadhar Gat helps the woman to file a complaint against them. And next logical step is to fight a case in courts to get justice. It is the view of the whole system towards women disturbs Manisha. “From society to police to legal system sees no odd in women suffering. If this approach does not change, women have to fight,” she says. Aadhar Gats across 200 villages till today have solved more than 5000 cases and continue to do so. Through mouth publicity, the group has reached to many. Women in need contact us or people inform us if a woman is abused. After years of effort, the government has now finally appointed a Protection Officer at seven Blocks of the district to implement DV Act. “It should have done long ago as per act. 11 officers are required but government is working with seven,” she says.