Post Mortem

From shackles to freedom: Story of a domestic violence survivor

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/9/2019 1:00:39 PM IST

 (Based on true events)

Women Helpline-181 is a Scheme under the Ministry of Women and Child Development GOI, exclusively designed to support women affected by violence, both in private and public space. It provides support to women who are victims of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse. It is a single universal toll free number accessible across the country, which provides 24 hours telecom service to women in distress or women seeking information or support. It facilitates crisis and non-crisis intervention through referral to police/ hospital/ ambulance services/ Ones Stop Centre/ psychological counseling/ Legal Aid/ District Protection Officer and any other appropriate agencies depending on the need of the caller. Any woman in need of assistance can just dial the number 181 to avail the services (Alternate number-9485239098). The story below is based on actual cases received, but pseudonymous names are used for the character to protect the identity of the persons.
This article is being published in support of the International Campaign of 16 Days Activism against Gender-Based Violence, starting from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and culminating on 10th December, Human Rights Day. In Nagaland, the State Resource Centre for Women and the 181 Women helpline Nagaland kick started the with a Walkathon and Cycling from Old MLA Hostel Junction till Directorate of Social Welfare in Kohima on 25th November, 2019, and the ongoing activities will culminate on 10th December.
It was another late evening; Lily who had been constantly bearing the drunken rage of her husband was dozing near the fireplace. The two children were asleep while Lily was waiting for her husband’s return to serve him dinner. There was a loud yell accompanied by a bang on the old wooden door, which had already been dented by the routine performance. With a grand entrance, her husband Khosho entered with a yell, asking whether his dinner had already been laid out and if it had been placed exactly where he always asked her to. Finding no valid reason to fault her, he took the reason of the curry being not to his taste, threw the whole pot of curry at her. Then without even noticing from where the next blow came, Lily was already on the floor and her fractured nose was bleeding even before it had healed from the previous night’s blow. This was followed by the crashing sounds of more utensils and random kicks on her body. The neighbors were already immune to these dramatic events; so nobody was around to rescue her. However, the bruises being more severe this time, Lily needed the help of someone. Lily summoned up her courage and rushed to her parent’s house to get some aid for her battered body. Even her parents thought that her husband had every right over her. Immediately after she was attended by her parents, she rushed back home. By the time Lily reached home, her in-laws were also waiting, and she was not allowed to meet her husband; instead, she was asked to leave her home. However, unable to accept the thought of getting detached from her two children, she decided to stay back and fight for them. Her husband left home without a word and did not return that night. 
Keeping in mind the marriage vows they had taken, she continued to survive the almost shattered home, expecting that things would change, but that change never took place. Even during the night of the last incident, she hoped her husband would return and that the normal mundane routine would carry on, so she stayed awake with several thoughts running through her mind. Dawn broke, but her husband did not return. Days went by and it became weeks and months but her husband did not come back and her in-laws never disclosed his whereabouts. But when her husband did not return even after a year, the situation at home became a mess. Since her husband had been financially supporting the family, his absence led their children to drop out from school as Lily could not support them financially. A simple meal a day became too hard for them to afford.
There was no other option left for her, but to hesitantly resort to approaching the Family Court, seeking for maintenance, of which she got a little idea from a friend. When the matter came to the knowledge of the Family Court, the Court graciously allowed her case, directing her husband to pay maintenance. It was not a big surprise when her husband, after becoming aware of the Family Court’s Order, instead of complying with it, filed a case in the Customary Court stating that in their custom a woman is not allowed to confront a man. The Customary Court even went to the extent of threatening her with excommunication from the village. Subsequently, Lily was summoned by the Village Council, so that they could intimate her about the punishment they had decided to charge her for the offence she had committed.
Fortunately, the news of Lily’s difficult situation came to the notice of the President of one women organization, who informed her about the Women Helpline-181, which gives support to any woman in distress. Lily was in need of any help she could grab, so it did not take time for her to reach the Women Helpline. She immediately dialed the number 181. The Women Helpline-181 received her case, and appraised the District Welfare Office. The Women Helpline-181 also took the assistance of the State Commission for Women and the District Legal Services Authority, who engaged a Panel Lawyer to represent her case. The Women Helpline-181 approached the Village Council on Lily’s behalf, requesting them to give her an opportunity to state her grievances, which was reluctantly granted. 
It was a surprising turn of event. Lily, who thought that being a woman meant she had an inferior place in the society, shivered and had sleepless nights when she was summoned to appear before the Customary Court. However, with the support of Women Helpline and assisted by her Panel Lawyer, she gathered her courage to appear before the Village Council. The aura of male dominance inside the room made her somewhat regretful for taking such a decision, which she thought for a moment, was only a waste of effort. Lily’s name was called out and she sheepishly stood to hear the decision of the Village Council. The next thing that followed was a hue of jubilation from her companions. Lily was weeping aloud, but this time the tears were of joy. The decision was pronounced in her favour, and for the first time, after her marriage, she felt a great sense of relief. She could not stop conveying her gratitude to the Women Helpline-181 and other agencies that had supported her through thick and thin.
The story of Lily has inspired the lives of many people in her village and other neighboring villages because for the first time, a woman was given a chance to defend her rights before the Village Council. It also illustrates a promising and well balanced Naga society. Despite the deeply embedded patriarchal mindset, and therefore in this case, the initial resistance, village institutions including the Customary Court, are also gradually becoming more sensitized and open minded in their outlook about the need for relevant change in our society. 
From the desk of 
181-Women Helpline Nagaland

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