Naga customary court continues to get in the way of justice
Dimapur, June 9 (EMN): As many as 529 complaints of crime against women have been reported with the Sakhi One Stop Centre (OSC) since its inception in Nagaland but officials have hinted at the possibility of justice being denied to victims due to interference by the customary court.
One Stop Centres (OSCs), which intend to support women affected by violence, was set up at Kohima and Dimapur in 2016 and the other districts in 2019, while proposal is said to have been placed for the new district, Noklak.
According to data provided by the Nagaland Sakhi OSC, domestic violence, abandoned or women in distress, missing/kidnapping/abduction/runaway, sexual offence, and cyber crime were some of the cases that have been reported and are on the rise.
The age groups of the complainants are mostly below 18 and 18-35.
The consolidated report of cases received from 2020 to March 2021 showed domestic violence topping the chart with 154; cases of abandoned/distressed women reported was 140; missing/kidnapping/abduction/runaway reported was 103; and other cases such as unsound mind/child abuse/relationship issue were 49.
State Resource Centre for Women (SRCW) state coordinator and Sakhi Nagaland in-charge Gracy Ayee told Eastern Mirror that since the inception of the OSC in the state, ‘our people are also coming forward to report cases and not trying to solve within the four walls’. Domestic violence, she said, was the most reported case in the state.
Dimapur district has the highest count of cases being reported, however, it was also surprising to receive cases from district like Phek, ‘which is a close knit society compared to Dimapur which has a mixed population’, she added.
Ayee said that one of the challenges they face is the interference of the customary court. ‘Sometimes, if we receive calls on domestic affairs, they do not turn up and when we enquire, most of the cases are settled by the customary court while our worry is if justice has been done to the victim,’ she informed.
‘No cases can be processed without the consent of the client and since SRCW or OSCs are a centrally-sponsored scheme, there is no question of customary law/court being involved when a case is already processed,’ she said.
Sakhi One Stop Centre has been integrated with the Women Helpline-181 and SRCW, as the nodal agency, is responsible for facilitating the implementation of the scheme in the state. The objective of the scheme is to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in public and private spaces under one roof. It aims to facilitate immediate, emergency and non-emergency access to a range of services including medical, legal, psychological, counselling support and shelter during crisis periods.
Another case worker from OSC Dimapur said they have received cases where the victims approached Sakhi because they weren’t ‘satisfied’ with the decision of the Customary Court. “Since all of us know that majority rights are given to the man in the customary law. Once they come to us, we assist them at the Family court as requested by them,” she said.
The OSCs assist them with services depending on the nature of the case. If the victim needs legal aid (DIR/maintenance/compensation etc.), the team contacts their appointed panel lawyer from DLSA and provide assistance.
Moreover, if they want to file missing or runaway cases, they are assisted with FIR and follow up at the police station. Once the victims are found, they also make sure to provide psycho-social support because of the trauma they might have gone through.