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Challenge for human rights defenders

Challenge for human rights defenders

Sir: The parents of a 10-year-old girl victim of child marriage and alleged gang rape, after which she succumbed to her injuries in Johi, are waiting to get justice amid the news of reconciliatory efforts between the panchayat (tribal council) heads. It is feared that the parents of the dead girl will not get justice as happens in a majority of the cases decided under local panchayats. The media, civil society organisations, political workers and human rights activists are facing immense challenges. For example, when human rights activists report such cases to the media, pressure mounts from the perpetrators. The law comes into action but the feudal lords also spring into action to intervene.

True, the court process takes long and is expensive. Also, if the reconciliatory party wants to settle disputes among their co-villagers, there is no harm but there are some glaring differences. First, the so-called reconciliatory moves by the feudal lords mostly treat women like commodities, given as compensation for resolving the disputes committed by male family members. Their fate is decided arbitrarily by the male family members or heads of the panchayats without consulting them.

Why do these informal reconciliatory mediators not intervene when violence against women occurs? Unfortunately, this parallel justice system is heavily tilted in favour of men and when, due to the pressure from media/civil society, male perpetrators come under the spotlight of the law, these reconciliatory parties come to their rescue. This is why the perpetrators of child marriages, forced marriages, honour killings and other kinds of domestic violence are not prosecuted under the law and the matter is decided out of court. This trend emboldens the perpetrators of crimes against women.

Daily Times

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