The Alternative Law Forum organized a talk by Smt. Bhanwari Devi at the CSI Vishranti Nilayam Hall, Bangalore on Saturday, March 9, 2013. CLPR’s Manojna Yeluri was present at the talk. The talk was open to the public and specifically dealt with Bhanwari Devi’s struggle with the courts and political institutions following her gang-rape in 1992. The brutal assault against her was perpetrated in response to her work as a ‘saathin’ or social worker with the Government of Rajasthan, and specifically, due to her work against the then widely-prevalent practice of child marriage. Bhanwari Devi and her husband had both been victims of violent assault – their courage and battle for justice resulted in the landmark judgment of Vishaka v. Stae of Rajasthan.
Primarily communicating in Rajasthani, Smt. Bhanwari Devi spoke of her work as a ‘saathin’; her varied experiences with social work in her community; the atrocities committed against her; and finally the need to unite and continue the struggle for justice – justice for her, and for the larger community of women everywhere.
Smt. Bhanwari Devi was asked several questions by the audience members, most notably; a question on whether policies or measures had been implemented to safeguard the ‘saathins’ who continue to work in their States, in light of the guidelines on Sexual Harassment as laid down in Vishaka. Smt. Bhanwari Devi noted that besides the meager increase in salary, no other efforts had been taken towards improving the professional lives of the ‘saathins’.
Smt. Bhanwari Devi however, ended her talk on a bright note – stating that the struggle to rid society of violence against women, was not the cause of one person or one organisation alone, and thus requested the co-operation of various organisations in collaborating to seek the goal of justice for all women.