In villages of about 14 districts in UP, cases related to women no more go to the police and family courts. They are instead solved by the women of the village in Nari Adalat.
Arguments of the complainant and the accused are heard and thereafter mediation is initiated. The adalats meet once a month or sometimes more depending on the number of cases. They comprise women from the village who are trained about gender issues and laws related to women by Mahila Samakhya.
Chandrawati, 50, of Gorakhpur who leads the Nari Adalat in Gorakhpur said, “A number of cases of domestic violence, dowry, rapes, eve teasing and neighbourhood enmities come to us. We meet on the 28th of every month and listen to the complaints. The accused are also called and heard properly. If they do not turn up to the adalat, we go to their homes for interrogation and only after all arguments are heard that the mediation is done.” Chandrawati is a class 5 dropout who has been trained about gender laws and issues by Mahila Samakhya.
Another Kamla of Sitapur said, “The decisions and mediations initiated in the Nari adalat aren’t verbal. We get stamp papers and get them signed by both parties. Regular follow-ups by the members of the Nari adalat are also done to ensure that the decisions are being respected.”
In case the problems get larger and are beyond the jurisdiction of the Nari adalat, it is the women members of the adalat who take the matter to the police and ensure a proper redressal of the problem in the courts.
“In addition to listening to the problems and making both parties reach a common point, Nari adalats serve better in ensuring an end to the woes of women. Since they are women of the village, they are able to create social pressure on the accused which in turn helps women,” said officials of Mahila Samakhya.
They told that the Nari adalats started in 1997 and ever since more than 50,000 cases have been attended in the 36 nari adalats being held every month in 14 districts of UP.
“Nari adalats help in re-establishment of broken families and since all women are involved in solving problems of women in distress, the exercise also develops sisterhood among women and enhances their confidence,” said Smriti Singh, director Mahila Samakhya.