Grassroots workers seated around a rooftop terrace in Gujarat listened in wonder as Ranjan behn Parmar talked about how she had gained skills and confidence through attending court hearings as a support person for survivors of child sexual abuse.
A Dalit woman who had herself struggled through a difficult childhood, Ranjan behn had so impressed the prosecutor with her thorough preparation and awareness of the law that he told her, “you should be in my seat.”
In Ranjan behn’s own words:
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Sitting inside courtrooms has taught me a lot – what offences are charged, what the law is, how to support the complainant so they are not afraid to speak.
With AID support, the lawyer spearheading this work, Ms. Pritha Jha is expanding these efforts to Bihar in collaboration with a grassroots organization called Samagra Seva that has worked for decades on education, child rights and prevention of child labor. Reaching villages in Banka, Jamui, Lakhesarai, Munger and Patna districts, she trains local resource persons who visit classrooms and workplaces.
Together the teams make people aware of the issue of child sexual abuse and that for children there is a law on their side called POCSO, or Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences, which provides for counseling, support person, legal aid, protocols for child-friendly legal procedures, and compensation.Give today
To give this law a fighting chance to be effective on the ground, the work of groups like Samagra Seva is essential. In just the past six months, Samagra Seva has trained 26 trainers and conducted 600 sessions reaching 20,000 people on the POCSO law and on how to recognize safe and unsafe touch in a way that is accessible to children and parents.
They have additionally trained 30 activists, volunteers and paralegals about child rights, POCSO and juvenile justice legislation and set up a network of adolescent girls and boys capable of offering support to child survivors. They also make legal counsel available and provide support persons and encouragement to survivors navigating the complexities and terrors of standing up to older and powerful people.
And they are just getting started.
One more thing: In 2023, Ranjan Parmar is starting law school and aims to become an advocate, arguing cases in defense of children.Give today Take Action
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