Daily Winner for: – 18th August 2012
Name of the intern: – Ayesha
Institute: – National University of Juridical Sciences
Organization interned with: – Pondicherry Women’s Commission
I interned in the PWC office in the summer of 2008 and it was an eye opening experience. The number of problems suffered by women in India and that too at the hands of their husbands-men who are supposed to love them and protect them was just astounding. My internship was a month long and I had several responsibilities. My primary duty involved assisting the Counsellor, a woman officer who studied each case and offered advice and help. It was a legal aid cell where we advised the women what rights accrued to them in their case – whether it be a divorce, a dispute over alimony, a question of child custody, and/or child maintenance. Some cases included adultery, second marriages, and/or dowry deaths, in which case it was the wife’s family which came to us, enquiring as to what action they could take.
As an intern, and that too a second year student, it was quite a trying task dealing with such a myriad of cases. My work included interviewing the women, separating fact from fiction (as exaggerated versions were common) and then looking for the legal issues at play. This was followed by the drafting of legal advice memo’s which detailed the kind of rights that accrued to these women and their families. A very peculiar custom I found in Pondicherry (which is common in Tamil Nadu as well) was that of Chinna Veedu which is a form of polygamy amongst the Hindus there.
Chinna Veedu, which when translated implies ‘small house’ or second home is a thriving practise there. The practise is rampant in the Krishnagiri and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. At first it shocked me but when I realised that the women were alright with it, I was even more perplexed. After talking to many of these women, I discovered that the women had no other choice to accept it as a way of life, especially when the husband wanted a male child and they had been unable to produce one, or because he wanted some more financial resources which he could only get through marriage, in the form of dowry. It was quite unnerving how blatantly the laws were violated here in the interior parts of the country, and how commonly accepted it was. So much for the vision of the country’s founding father’s, I thought.
My work also involved working with a couple of NGO’s in the city who were working’s on these issues. Along with them, I conducted several fact-finding investigations in the villages surrounding the city. One such investigation was in a widow’s ashram where we were appalled by the inhuman conditions that existed. We got in touch with the local authorities and got the water supply system fixed and tabled a report on its conditions and recommendations for action to be taken with the local MLA.
One of the recommendations which was linking the ashram with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry so that the women could work there and earn some means of subsistence, has been put into action by the Pondicherry Government. The last thing I did as a part of my internship was to table a research paper on the plight of women in Pondicherry and a proposal on how the laws in place could be implemented better by bringing in a stronger support structure for women in the city. Time flew by fast and before I knew it, my month at Pondicherry was over.
The reason I, a North Indian girl, had chosen Pondicherry was because I was fascinated by the place and wanted to make my internship a ‘working vacation’. On most days, I got off work by 5 pm everyday and then I had the rest of the day to explore this wonderful tourist city. I rented a moped and spent my evenings exploring the wonderful streets and the beautiful French architecture, checking out the bookstores tucked away in tiny corners with books that are probably worth a lot of money, being sold for peanuts and relaxing at the beautiful cafes, gorging on the mushroom and cheese omelettes, baguettes and delicious coffee. My weekends were spent at Auroville, volunteering.
This was by far the best internship I had in law school, and I really wish everyone who reads this, quickly books themselves for a similar experience!
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