Friday, 28 September 2018


Improving the lives of women in ways that are meaningful to them.
"Transforming lives… Creating smiles!"
When a girl or a woman is empowered, she becomes a catalyst for positive change whose success benefits everyone around her. Social, political and economical empowerment of women is one of the core activities of PECUC. In the beginning, around 1991-92, PECUC started forming women groups in Balianta block of Khordha district. It took around two and half years to form the groups & open bank accounts of 13 women self help groups. These groups impacted the formation of more than hundred groups in few years in this area. There were a lot of issues for women like coming out of house, which was again a huge struggle for them to meet their groups, to talk to them freely and to seat in a place outside their home. We had to first interact with the male members of the family to talk to the women group members. While opening the bank account even the women group members faced many constraints. Through intervention of NABARD we were able to convince the bankers and finally opened their bank accounts. It was also difficult for women to save Rs. 5 per month. Then they started keeping handful of rice & at the end of the month they sold it that gave them a calculated savings of Rs 20-25 per head. Slowly, the movement took up. After intensive training and continuous interaction, the women came out and started forming groups & by 2001 we were able to form 118 women self help groups in Balianta block, and by the end of 2014, PECUC was successful in promotion of 348 women self-help groups in its operational areas of Khordha, Keonjhar and Balasore districts, having 4191 women members with Rs. 1,36,01,881 savings in different banks.
In the year 1991-92, when PECUC started facilitating the formation of women SHGs in Balianta block of Khordha district, it took 2 years to promote 15 groups in 13 villages. These women self help groups are not only involved in thrift and credit management but also actively engaged in supplementing the family against violence on women. Remarkable changes have been observed since then. Women have come forward to solve the problems of their families and neighbours on their own. They have been pioneer in activities like anti liquor movement, education for girls and increasing access of poor people to various poverty alleviation programmes of the Govt, stopping child marriage, stopping child labour, reproductive child health, nutrition, organic farming, etc.
Laxmipriya Sahoo, Ward Member, of Bainchua Panchayat, Balianta block, Khordha, aged around 40 years, belongs to  OBC group. She intervened into a marriage and stopped it as the bride and groom were minors. Anima (Fake Name), a 17 years old girl of Balianta block, Khordha district was studying +2 in Balakati College. A fellow student from Pipili fell in love with her. He then started bothering her in college and on social media. Frightened of this, Anima informed her parents about it. Her parents went to the boy’s house to talk to his parents regarding this. But things went ugly and they had exchange of words and threatened them. The incident shook the girl and her family. She got scared to go out. Seeing this, her parents decided to get her married to the son of one of their distant relatives from Balakati. They got engaged and the boy who used to bother her got the news of this. The boy then informed about this to the DSWO as the girl was underage. The marriage was to happen on 19th April 2018. PECUC’s team got information about this & informed CDPO of Balianta Block. Then PECUC team along with CDPO talked with  the Sarpanch and Ward members of the girl’s village to be present in the fact finding team. But Sarpanch hesitated and requested to stay away from it. The Sarpanch was scared that if this incident was disclosed to public it will bring shame to their village so he assured that he will handle it in his own way. But Laxmipriya and the Ward Members joined the team. They sat down with both the families and informed them about the laws related to child marriage. The girl’s parents informed that the girl is already traumatized because of the previous incident and has become depressed and making suicidal attempt. If the marriage breaks then she might do any harm to her own life. The team and others got shocked hearing this. So they decided to counsel the girl. They assured her that the boy will no longer bother her and also the marriage will definitely happen once she turns 18. This brought a change in her mind and she promised that she will wait to marry until she turns 18. Then the parents were made to sign a declaration that said although the families can have a usual relationship but the parents will not try or force the girl to get married before she turns 18. And she can marry the guy she got engaged with if she wants.

Sabita Bhoi, Ward member of village Saleswar, Balianta Gram Panchayat of Balianta Block, Khordha Districts of Odisha is also a member of Alibha Federation. Earlier she didn’t know anything about Gram Panchayat. In 2017 Panchayat election villagers asked her to stand in the Election. She is a poor lady and only daughter of her parents. Her father passed away when she was a child. She and her mother were living in a difficult situation. Her mother arranged a marriage for her at Berhampur. After 2 years of the marriage she had a daughter. They named her Rashmi because she thought that her daughter would bring light in her life. After the birth of her daughter, her husband left her. Until now she has not received any information about him. Her mother and she worked as daily wage workers in different household and gave her daughter a formal education. Today she is doing +3 arts. She then diverted her attention towards the responsibility of Panchayat. In her village a 16 years old girl named Anu Das (Fake Name)  fled away with a ST boy of snake charmer community (Kela). Sabita along with the villagers searched for her, failing which they lodged a FIR in the Police Station. Police searched for them and found them in an objectionable position. They were brought to Balianta PS. There was a compromise. In front of the authority an undertaking was signed by both the parents of the boy and girl. It was decided that the girl will remain with her parents house till she attains the age of 18. And will marry the boy after she attains the age of maturity. She will not be subjected to any kind of mental torture from both sides during the intervening period. The marriage of the girl with boy was postponed for appropriate time. She got full-fledged help and cooperation from PECUC and the ward member  in this endeavour of her.  
Jhuna Mallick, belonging to SC community, is working as the Ward Member at Kothapatana, Balianta block, Khordha. She has studied upto 5th class. Her father died when she was a child. Jhuna’s mother got her married early at the age of 15 and was a housewife for 13 years. Her husband is a daily wager; some days he gets work and some days he doesn’t. Thus, it gets difficult to manage the livelihood of their family. So, she became a member of SHG and took a loan to open a grocery store in front of her house. The money that comes from the store is spent on her kids’ education. When her husband has no work, he helps her with the store and household chores. Even though Jhuna is not very educated, she manages everything. She loves helping her community for which the community loves her a lot. Jhuna has been involved with PECUC’s activities since 2015. In 2017, Panchayat Election, the ward no. 16 had a woman reserved seat, so the Women Rights Committee decided to enrol Jhuna Mallick to stand in the election from that ward. Although her family was a bit sceptical about the decision, she agreed to contest the election. Two other women were also contesting against her. On moral grounds, she didn’t want to go against the women of her community, she decided to withdraw from the election. However, the people persuaded her not to withdraw her candidacy. Many rumours were spread about her but she kept calm and won the election by 130 votes. On March 10th, 2017, she took her oath to see her village as her family and promised development, but she didn’t know how and where to start from. PECUC lend out a helping hand. She took part in the 3-day leadership development training. She would attend all the panchayat meetings but she hesitated to voice her thoughts. She would come to PECUC’s coordinator and discuss her problems. Now, she speaks her mind in meeting confidently. She conducted Palli Sabha Meeting and assessed all the issues and presented them in the Gram Sabha Meeting. PECUC, then gave training on finance management, which she attended. With time, her enthusiasm to work for the community increased. She walks 5 km from her home to the panchayat office every day. She took up a lot of work in 2017-18. The school had in their village had only one tube-well and it wasn’t working properly. She provided water supply to the school. She also helped Manju Das get the widow pension scheme and also helped Subhalaxmi Mallick to get the PMAY house. She also provided toilets to 2 families and enrolled 4 families under the BPL scheme. She helped 4 families of the deceased get Rs. 2000 each under the Harishchandra Yojana. She did all this with the help of the Panchayat Fund. Apart from this, she’s also a member of GKS and holds meeting every month. She also used the Panchayat Fund to construct a dustbin. She’s also a member in Kanchilo School SMC. She visits the school and AWC twice or thrice every week. She monitors the education and the MDM food provided in the school. We are proud of her and the accomplishments that she has achieved in this short term.
Apart from social issues, many income generation activities has also been carried out by the women group members that includes turmeric processing, petty shops, goatery, fishery, pisciculture, vegetable cultivation, pig rearing, poultry, badi and papad making, tailoring, essence stick, leaf plate making, rice processing, band party, floriculture, cane work, diary farming, minor forest product collection, dry fish, sheep rearing, bamboo work, pickle, ginger cultivation, duck rearing, popped rice, etc. PECUC’s effort to build the capacity of women on different areas has resulted in building their self confidence, increasing their participation in decision making process in family and community, pallisava & gram sava, as well as Panchayati Raj Institutions. PECUC is working with women panchayat functionaries of Balianta, Bolgarh block of Khordha district with The Hunger Project to enhance their capacity, continuous training, federation building of women PRIs at cluster level & Block Level, Need based training on various issues, Gramsava & pallisava mobilization, monitoring scheme programmes /ICDS /MDM/School programme/Sanitation, etc, environment protection activities like planting trees, campaign on end violence against women, public hearing on DV cases with women commission, interface with Govt officials, changing seating arrangement at panchayat level, etc. PECUC has opened Gender panchayat resource centre at all panchayats of Balianta block & also at Bolgarh. This centre is managed by women PRIs of that area.
Gender Equality will only be reached if we are able to empower women”

Anuradha  Mohanty
Executive Director ,PECUC ,

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Ending Child Marriage in India: Moving from Law to Justice

The expression-child marriage is a compendious one. For some it is fun and excitement and for some it is end of parental liability. Again, some relate Child Marriage either with culture  or religion. But, it seems nobody understand the plight of the children who live under the bondage of forced or obtuse matrimony. Since 1929 both the British and the Government of India have been trying to eradicate Child marriage in India but the fact and figures present disappointing picture. As per the 205th Report of the Law Commission of India, February 2008, child marriages continue to be a fairly widespread social evil in India and in a study carried out between the years 1998 to 1999 on women aged 15-19 it was found that 33.8% were currently married or in a union. In 2000 the UN Population Division recorded that 9.5% of boys and 35.7 % of girls aged between 15-19 were married. However, while regional disparities exist, child marriage has significantly decreased from 47 per cent (2006) to 27 per cent (2016). Despite this drop, nearly 1.5 million girls under 18 year of age enter into premature matrimony. Therefore, the salient issue is how to minimized the frequency of Child Marriage in India. Sociologists argue that for variety of reasons, child marriages are prevalent in many parts of our country but the reality is more complex than what it seems to be.        Can alone law do it? I know many are skeptic about this but if we look at the provisions of Section 16 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 it provides the statutory duties of Child Marriage Prohibition Officers. As I understand these duties are not explanatory and need to be crafted properly. Many might have observed two forms of Child marriage ie, Minor’s Marriage with the consent of the parents and guardians and Minor’s Marriage without the consent of their parents and guardians. In both the cases the legitimacy of marriage often presented before the honourable court.
The legal principle that a marriage in contravention of clause (iii) of section 5 of the HMA was-neither void nor voidable, was established prior to the enactment and enforcement of the Prohibition of Child marriage Act, 2006. The principle which is now applicable is that a marriage in contravention of clause (iii) of section 5 of the HMA is not ipso facto void but could be void if any of the circumstances enumerated in section 12 of the Prohibition of Child marriage Act, 2006 is triggered and that, in any event, all such marriages would be voidable at the option of the ‘child' spouse in terms of section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and it applies also to all citizens of India without and beyond India: Provided that nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the Re-noncants of the Union territory of Pondicherry. The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint; and different dates may be appointed for different States and any reference in any provision to the commencement of this Act shall be construed in relation to any State as a reference to the coming into force of that provision in that State.
Sometimes parents refuse undertake the responsibility of minor bride and bride groom.(especially after kidnapping and rape) Section 5 of the enactment provides Custody and maintenance of children of child marriages and Section 6. of the Act provides Legitimacy of children born of child marriages and it has been done in the best interest of the Child. The District enjoys the power to pass appropriate order for the custody of the Children (Section 7). Therefore, should JJ Act 2015, Domestic Violence Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 be engaged to tackle the situation? Or the Parent legislation should specifically make provisions to that effect?
Section 9. Punishment for male adult marrying a child.(2 Yrs and fine up to 2lakh or both)  Section10. Punishment for solemnising a child marriage and Section 11. Punishment for promoting or permitting solemnisation of child marriages. Sometimes social activist and hardliner argue for stringent punishment to minimize offences. The quantum of sentence has been a contesting subject and the learned house should debate. In Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs. State of Maharashtra[(2013) 5 SCC 546], referring to the recent decisions (of about fifteen years), the Supreme Court has summarized the mitigating factors and aggravating factors. In State of Rajasthan v. Jamil Khan, (2013) 10 SCC 721 the apex court observed that “A balance-sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances has to be drawn up and in doing so the mitigating circumstances have to be accorded full weightage and a just balance has to be struck between the aggravating and the mitigating circumstances before the option of sentence is exercised”.
Last but not the least, Section 13 provides Power of court to issue injunction prohibiting child marriages and under the provision the District Magistrate who is deemed to be the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer  enjoys wide power to prohibit child marriage under his jurisdiction. As I have seen District Magistrates are overburdened with their normal administrative work. Should State Government appoint specifically appoint Child Marriage Prohibition Officers vested with Magisterial powers other than District Magistrates?
Child marriage is a social evil which has the potentialities of dangers to the life and health of a female child and can play multi-dimensional havoc in their lives, who cannot withstand the stress and strains of married life and it leads to early deaths of such minor mothers. It also reflects the chauvinistic attribute of the Indian society. Time has come stop child marriage  for good as it violates the Rights of Child and the basic tenets  of Human Rights.

Prof (Dr.) P.K.Pattnaik
Dean, SOA National Institute of Law