Access to Justice

Domestic violence victims rarely seek help because of the fear and shame present in their minds. Most victims lack the means and will to pursue justice through formal and informal methods. Formal instances are costly and time-consuming. Victims, with very limited legal information available to them, can be mistreated by a police force that has limited capacity to deal with domestic violence. Services are few and far between at the upazila and union levels, with legal counseling and other victim services often unavailable except at the division capital. Victim and witness protection is almost non-existent. Women are vulnerable due to the lack of information and economic means to seek recourse through formal channels. Normally, the only option for women to seek recourse at the union level is the shalish, a traditional mediation body chaired by the Union Parishad (UP) chairman or other community leader. Lacking oversight, shalish verdicts are often gender biased and illegal, ignore human rights and promote corporal punishment.

PHR has been expanding access to justice for abused women and other vulnerable groups through informal and formal mechanisms, including alternative dispute resolutions (ADR). PHR has trained legal counselors on the latest legal rulings, outlining the legal framework to protect victims of domestic violence and other violations, delineate options available for victims including shalish, and discuss methods to provide women and child-friendly services to domestic violence victims. Local NGOs have been identified in each upazila to act as a resource for the legal counselors.

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