Bhubaneswar: A tribal practice prevalent in pockets of Orissa`s backward Kandhamal district in which young couples elope from a local fair and tie the knot exposes girls to social and legal exploitation for want of legally valid marital status.
The practice, known in local parlance as `Jinka` or `Dhangidi Ghicha`, has caught attention of a Dehradun-based organisation, `Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra`, which recently organised camps in the tribal-dominated district in
an effort to address the problem.
While many such young couples, aged below 18, marry though having weak legal status for being underage, some girls become unwed mothers, says RLEK Project Coordinator Nachiketa Mittal.
When deserted, they take shelter in four different Short Stay Homes located at Guddarisahi, Baliguda, G Udaygiri and Phringiya, he said.
In a bid to make women aware of their social, political and legal rights and empower them, RLEK organised legal empowerment camps for 10 days last month in three blocks of Kandhamal, Mittal said.
During the camps in Kandhamal, the four-member RLEK team found that domestic violence is rampant, unwed girls are becoming mothers at a very early age and in most of the cases marriage is not solemnised.
It leads to further exploitation of girls who possess weak social status in Kandhamal and have poor access to legal rights, he said adding over 600 women participated in camps where issues of lack in access to legal services and legal rights were commonly observed and noted.
Fifty-five-year-old Rupai Bai from Guddaarishai village complained that despite submitting papers more than twice she has not received widow’s pension. She has been awaiting the pension for the last 10 years, RLRK said in a paper.
A legal awareness rally of women was also organised at Chakapad while Secretary of District Legal Services Authority, SB Behra, interacted with rural women and motivated them to make use of free legal aid facilities provided by DLSA for
The telephone number of DLSA office was also shared with the community participants to enable them to use the free legal aid services effectively and promptly in cases of exploitation against them, Mittal said.
Tribal women belonging to the interior rural pockets of Khajuripada, Phulbani and Chakapada blocks of Kandhamal complained that they were still misled and paid Rs 90 as wage payment under MGNREGA, he claimed.
More than 700 women who participated in the legal empowerment camps organised by RLEK in Kandhamal complained that 100 days` employment in a year is still a distant dream.
RLEK has been working closely with Kandhamal based civil society organisation KALYANI and organized 5 days paralegal training for community volunteers, Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers, Mittal said.
These para-legal workers will go back to the rural communities and provide them legal first aid in cases of women exploitation, matters of filing RTI application, claiming work under MGNREGA and rightful allocation of land pattas where the
eligible tribal households would apply for the same under Forest Rights Act, he said.