Magazine article New Internationalist

Barefoot Lawyers Bring Rape Justice

Magazine article New Internationalist

Barefoot Lawyers Bring Rape Justice

Article excerpt

INDIA

Women in India could be forgiven for hoping that the gangrape of a young physiotherapist on a Delhi bus in December 2012 might have been a turning point in the prosecution of sexual violence. Instead, rape conviction rates have been steadily declining, down from 26 per cent in 2011 to 24 per cent in 2013. However, for Dalit women (from the caste once known as 'Untouchables', still predominantly illegally employed cleaning toilets with their bare hands) the conviction rate is two per cent.

Step up Jan Sahas (People's Courage), an NGO working across six states in India. It has used innovative measures to raise conviction rates to 38 per cent by training 200 survivors of sexual violence as 'barefoot lawyers' who support other women currently taking on the criminal justice system It runs a three-day training programme which includes role-play in a mock courtroom to empower women and clarify the legal process. Many participants are illiterate and do not know their rights. Ashif Shaikh, founder of Jan Sahas, believes that 'it is very important to change the mindset and build capacity in survivors to become leaders. …

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